cover image An Early Winter

An Early Winter

Marion Dane Bauer. Clarion Books, $15 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-395-90372-8

The title and recurring theme of Bauer's (Sleep, Little One, Sleep, reviewed above) novel refers to the grim effects of Alzheimer's disease. Ten-year-old Tim idolizes his grandfather, a former veterinarian and outdoorsman who raised him after Tim's father mysteriously disappeared. As his mother, stepfather and grandmother make plans to care for his failing grandfather, Tim angrily denies signs of the man's memory loss and disorientation, and plots to take his grandfather on a nostalgic fishing trip to prove that the man can still function normally. Bauer builds clues regarding the seriousness of the disease to a dramatic crescendo, when Tim must deliver them both to safety. In the process, Tim discovers some unpleasant truths surrounding his father's departure and--a bit too neatly--confronts his fears and grief, and comes to accept his grandfather as a person instead of a hero. While there are moments of painful honesty (for example, in the closing bedside scene when Tim asks his grandfather if he knows him, the man replies, ""I'm afraid I've forgotten... I know you are someone I love""), in other instances Tim's thoughts do not seem plausible. Still, the book offers a realistic depiction of the effects of this incapacitating disease and will likely be helpful to children who are struggling with aging relatives. Ages 9-up. (Aug.)