In recent years, as numerous studies have affirmed the positive developmental effects of music for children, parallel research has explored its impact on human beings at the other end of life: those who in their later years struggle with memory loss and various types of dementia. We are learning more and more about how music and movement can pierce to the deepest core of memory for those challenged with its loss, engaging them even when other forms of interaction, such as speech and facial recognition, cannot.
Andreas Steinhöfel's children's book If My Moon Was Your Sun addresses these issues from the perspective of a lively 9-year-old named Max whose grandfather, a much beloved and charming presence, has moved to a memory care unit. Max is troubled by his grandfather's increasing absentmindedness – dubbed "The Great Forgetting" – and constrictive new living quarters. Max secretly vows to kidnap his grandfather so that they can make their way to outskirts known as Blossom Valley, where there is a meadow cherished by them both. There, Max hopes that his grandfather will recover some of himself.
Besides his affection for nature, we learn something else about Max's grandfather: he loves music. "[M]ax had listened to his grandfather humming – a sound you could only just hear, a sound that always seemed to be rising from him, and when you asked him what it was, this humming that softly and tenderly wove its way through air and light, Grandfather would say the names of great composers: Brahms, Schubert, Mozart."
What unfolds after Max springs his grandfather from the home is a whimsical misadventure: "Never in the history of escapes has there been a more laid-back getaway..." Max and his grandfather are joined by another resident in the unit, Miss Schneider, a limber, vivacious former dance teacher (although at first she does not remember that she had been). By the end of the trio's capers, along with admonitions from the police and Max's mother, much music and frolicking has ensued.
If My Moon Was Your Sun is both a physical book, with vivid illustrations by Nele Palmtag, and a CD audiobook featuring both narration of the text and musical tracks designed to evoke the spirit, if not always the precise theme, of Ms. Palmtag's text-free 2-page illustrations, which appear every third page or so. The SWR Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg accompanies these images with warm performances of Sergei Prokofiev's "A Summer's Day" and Georges Bizet's "Children's Games."
Find an extended preview of the book here.
Copies of the book are available for purchase here.
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