Unmasking Grandpa Book Reviews

A review from Kirkus Reviews

In this early chapter book, a boy watches as his grandfather changes after a dementia diagnosis.

A bond between a grandparent and grandchild can be very special, just as it is for Anthony Eric Brown and a young Black child named Tony. They love to play basketball together while Tony’s sister, Kathy, bonds with Grandma over baking and other activities. Tony calls the basketball court Grandpa built in his own backyard “probably my favorite place in the world.” Then one day, everything starts to change—Grandpa confuses the number of boxes of jerseys he’s shipped out from his sports supply store, sending more than he needs to. Tony takes this incident in stride, but roughly a month later, Grandpa forgets the Thanksgiving turkey and shows other signs of being unwell. A trip to the geriatrician reveals that Grandpa has vascular dementia, an irreversible disease that impacts his brain functions, and Tony isn’t sure what to make of it. It isn’t easy taking care of a dementia patient—not for Tony’s Grandma, a former nurse, and not for the boy himself, who must now adapt his habits and expectations around his grandfather. Egi’s illuminating story creates a solid model for young readers experiencing situations like Tony’s, interweaving his emotional reactions to his grandfather’s diagnosis with more practical suggestions, such as supporting Grandpa by reinventing basketball and helping his own mental health by journaling. Unfortunately, the tale is so laser focused that the characters can appear flat, and the plot could have used more fleshing out. The titular metaphor of unmasking Grandpa is likewise problematic, as the word choice isn’t well explained. Occasionally opposite the pages with text are Kaur’s illustrations of the main plot points, which are brightly colored and simple but sometimes lack background details. Still, this book deserves a place on the special topics shelf next to works like The Tide (2019) by Clare Helen Welsh.

Despite some flaws, an informative tale about a beloved family member’s dementia.