The Staircase on Pine Street
by Mariana Llanos

"Lilly, Alzheimer's will take my memories... but it won't take my heart."

It’s no easy task to write a book that will explain Alzheimer’s disease in a way that children will understand. But Llanos has done just that in her moving The Staircase on Pine Street. Llanos has created something that kids can relate to, especially if the disease is making its way into their own families.

Lilly’s Grandpa Leo has moved into an assisted living facility, where Lilly and her mother, Evelyn, visit many times. They try to keep Leo’s spirits up, but the illness is moving quickly. A scary moment when he disappears at a dance illustrates this fact perfectly. Every day, he seems to be getting worse and worse. Leo knows what is happening to him and sends Lilly (along with her friend Mei Ling) on a treasure hunt. What the treasure is (and where) is anyone’s guess, but the moment Lilly discovers what is in it is truly heartwarming, as well as heartbreaking.

At only a little over sixty pages, this book can easily be read by children. Llanos makes sure that the text is simple for youngsters to comprehend. The clear illustrations by Kate Gattey add understanding of what’s happening in each chapter. It’s important that readers won’t find any difficult words here that would hinder their comprehension of this delicate topic: Even though Alzheimer’s will take away the person’s memories, it won’t take away what’s in their heart. Children will identify with Lilly, as a little girl who adores her Grandpa and will do anything to help him battle this terrifying disease. Though some struggles can’t be won, Llanos makes sure that Grandpa’s Leo heart can still be seen loud and clear.

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