Tuesday, April 25, 2017

One photo by Ross Watkins illustrated by Liz Arbelli

Dad started doing more funny things, like putting things that belonged in the fridge in the cupboard, and things that belong in the cupboard in the fridge.



There are many difficult subjects that are explored through picture books.  Death of a parent or loved one would be one of the hardest followed closely by the subject of this book - dementia.



You can see some books from our library that deal with this topic but the difference with One Photo is that this is early onset dementia - a father not a grandfather.  The young boy who narrates this story watches as his dad takes photos on an old film camera.  The photos all seem to be of random objects and not the people in his life.



He displays the photos on the window of his study. The collection grows and grows.  Sadly "then, we lost Dad."

The boy and his mum take the final film to be developed - it is just one (important) photo.



I think the most poignant moment in the story comes when Dad has died and a box arrives in the mail with dad's handwriting on the label.  Inside is the camera.  Even through the fog of memory loss and dementia Dad has planned this special way to send a comforting message to the family he loves.  I also appreciate the honest of the emotions in this book for example when Mum becomes frustrated with the photo collection "she yelled at him".

One Photo has been shortlisted for our CBCA Awards.  You might like to read this review.  The illustrator Liz Anelli has made good use of the end papers.  The beginning images are all the usual family photos filled with people.  The final ones are the objects photographed by dad.  Another thing to notice is the tree outside their home.  At the beginning of the book it is covered in leaves - perhaps it is summer or spring.  By the end of the book the leaves have fallen and the garden is looking neglected but while this is a sad book is also a book about healing. There is a sense at the end that the boy and his mum will be okay - they will manage.

Here is an interview with the author Ross Watkins and here are a set of teacher notes.

When we explore this book with our students this term I plan to begin with the wonderful book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge as a way to talk about memories.

If you want to explore this complex topic with older students here are some other short novels to read.


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