My name is Cally

By Donna Balthazard-Dube

Book reviewed by Maria Nicol, Community Advisor for Alzheimers Northland

This book resonated with me straight away, even though it’s written from an eight-year-old’s perspective about living with her grandmother who has Alzheimer’s.  Cally’s almost ‘perfect’ life is disrupted when Nana arrives, and the book details her struggle to deal with the impact of her changing situation, and how to cope with Nana’s condition.  Cally has constant ‘butterflies in her stomach’, and her anxiety mounts over what is happening to her family and Nana.  At one point she sees life as a ‘bad nightmare’, and her only constant companion is Amelia the cat. 

As we follow Cally through the highs and lows of living with someone with dementia, we are given insight into what life may feel like in this situation.  Life seems unfair, the future is uncertain, and it’s scary.  Cally responds with resentment and concern, and somewhat retreats into loneliness with Amelia. 

How Cally deals with these feelings and emotions is dealt with beautifully towards the end of the book. She loves her Nana and is worried about doing the wrong thing by Nana, but lacks understanding.  The simple instructions that Cally’s parents give her are poignant; “treat her (Nana) how you want to be treated….as long as you are kind and loving…”  This to me is the take-home message from this book; we need to see dementia through the simplistic, caring eyes of an eight-year-old. 

I believe this book is a great read for both parents and children who have a family member who has dementia.  Throughout most of the book Cally knows that something is wrong, and is full of worry; not a good place for a child to be at. But through guidance from her caring parents, she is able to turn this into a positive, and bring joy and laughter back to Nana’s life.  This highlights the importance of providing dementia education not just for adults, but also for children. With understanding children can have a wonderfully, positive impact on their family member with dementia, to the benefit of all.  As Cally said, “…as long as Nana’s happy, who cares where her memory goes?”

Find the book here on Amazon for purchase.