Having experienced loved ones struggling with memory loss in my own family, Jessie Oliveros’ debut picture book, THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, really touched my heart. It’s clear that this story came straight from her own experience, but how does a writer convey an abstract concept like memory loss and make it comprehensible to children?
Thank you, Jessie, for sharing how you did it!
THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was inspired by my paternal grandfather who has Alzheimer’s. I wanted to write a book that made this disease, one that affects so many families, more understandable for children.
However, it didn’t start out as a very accessible story. I started by writing a straightforward tale of a boy and his grandfather with Alzheimer’s. In the beginning, it was falling a little flat for me. I didn’t have the Real Story yet.
I was sitting with my children in my family room when I decided to turn the direction metaphorical. I love metaphors, and thinking in metaphors is something I’ve always done. It’s a way for me to work through trials in my own life.
…That’s when I thought of balloons. Balloons are accessible to children!
But…the heart of my story isn’t balloons. The heart of my story is what the balloons represent. The heart of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS is memories. Our own memories and the memories we share.
I have pages and pages of journals. (Mostly from before I was a mom and I had more time!) Our stories, the moments that are the building blocks of who we are as humans, are so fleeting. Yet they last because we remember them. Journaling has always been my way of preserving those memories so they aren’t forgotten.
But sometimes memories are forgotten. What then? I guess all my years of journaling and treasuring up memories prepared me for the moment I sat down to write this manuscript. What happens when someone loses their memories?
Just like my own grandfather has his own stories—
—James’ grandfather has his.
And James cares so much about these memories. He’ll climb trees after them. He’ll run up and down hills, chasing them down. He will weep for them when they are lost.
But in the end, these stories aren’t lost because of us! We carry on the legacy of those who have gone before us.
We are the keeper of their memories.