Stories can enter our thoughts and feelings in order to help us make sense of life and Phyllis & Grace is such a story.
Grace is Phyllis’ young next door neighbour. She is easygoing, thoughtful, and likes horses. Phyllis is kind, cheeky and likes horses, too. And although Phyllis doesn’t always remember Grace, she likes Grace. Phyllis also has Alzheimers.
There are funny moments and break-your-heart moments but Phyllis and Grace’s connection remains constant. Through this friendship, the progression of Alzheimers is gently shown. In friendship we find pleasure, support and social identity and so friendship is a wonderful vehicle to lovingly show the challenges of this disease. This emotionally rich story, supports readers through a whole gamut of emotions, helping them to become more aware and alert to the lives of others.
In that scratchy style that I love, Bethan Welby captures emotions, using chinagraph pencils (soft and waxy) with watercolour and some pastel. Phyllis in particular is portrayed very expressively with a childlike quality. Her eyes are shown smiling, laughing, sad, confused and angry. Welby has added to the richness of Gray’s words, leaving room for the reader’s imagination.
Phyllis & Grace gave words to a truth that I feel very deeply. In his later days, my grandfather became quite forgetful and I felt great sadness but there was magic too. I heard stories from my grandfather that I’d never heard before when he was more lucid.
A great book to help children understand the progression of Alzheimers told from a child’s point of view. For writers, it’s a great example of ‘show don’t tell’, and for illustrators, it’s a wonderful example of how to leave space for the reader’s imagination.
Teachers will find multiple discussion points in the story. There are resources, as well as, the author and illustrator reading the book here.
Close to my heart. No judgement. A beautiful story.
Title: Phyllis & Grace
Author: Nigel Gray
Illustrator: Bethan Welby
Publisher: Scallywag Press, $24.99
Publication Date: 7 April 2022
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book