Welcome parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and readers of all sorts! Today is World Alzheimer's Day and we're taking a closer look at it with author Debra Daugherty. Debra's picture book, The Memory Jar with Victoria Marble, sheds some light on a family's struggle with Alzheimer's. When a granddaughter notices her Granny's memory is failing, she's not sure what to do at first. Then she gets the perfect idea to create a jar filled with stories her Granny's shared with her through the years. This jar thankfully helps her Granny remember some of her favorite memories. Want to know more about Debra, her heartwarming story, plus want a chance to win a copy of her beautiful book? Read on...
Q: Hi, Debra! Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. We’re excited to have
you and hear all about your picture book, The Memory Jar. Can you share a little
bit about yourself and your background in writing with our readers?
A: Thanks, Heather and Lynne, for this warm welcome. I’m thrilled to be here.
About me - I’m a central Illinois author who grew up loving to read. My mom used to say I always had a book in my hand. My grade school published a monthly school paper and I submitted stories and poems to the editor. Almost every month, one of my stories was included. That’s how my love of writing began. I’m also fortunate because I had teachers who encouraged me to write. For years, I wrote children’s stories to entertain my nieces and nephews. It wasn’t until I joined the SCBWI in 2012 that I earnestly began submitting to publishers.
Q: The Memory Jar is such an important book. It follows a young girl, Amelia, whose grandmother is struggling with dementia. Her grandmother even struggles remembering Amelia’s name. What gave you the idea to write The Memory Jar?
A: In 2006, my ninety-three year old aunt had a stroke. Aunt Luella could no longer care for herself, so I brought her home to live with me. She recovered from the stroke, but her memories faded. She forgot that her husband had passed away a few years before. Every night, she refused to eat until he came home. I’d set a plate of food in the fridge and tell her that was for Uncle Elmer, and then she’d eat. Later, she talked about her life as if she was a child. She’d say she needed to go home to her mom and dad. She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t know her brother when he visited. Family became strangers. My aunt passed away in 2009, just four months shy of her ninety-sixth birthday.
Anyone who has ever cared for someone with dementia knows how hard it can be on a person. It was difficult to watch as my sweet, brilliant aunt changed. I never thought she’d not know me, but that day came, and it broke my heart. Years passed. I joined the SCBWI, and a critique group. I wrote The Memory Jar for one of my critique group meetings. I thought of Aunt Luella, and the words flowed, almost as if the story was writing itself. My aunt inspired my story. Grammy is based on her.
Q: Amelia comes up with the perfect plan to help her grandmother remember her past. Can you share more about Amelia’s idea and how it helped her grandmother? What takeaway do you hope readers, young and old, will have from The Memory Jar?
A: Amelia struggled to find a way to help her grandmother remember the happy times of her life, and the people she loved. She wrote her grandmother’s memories in her notebook, then tore each story out, folded it and placed it in a jar. She hoped that when her grandmother read each one, she would remember. Amelia promised to tell her grandmother her stories when she no longer remembered them.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are like thieves who rob a person of their memories. I hope that my readers realize that even though their loved one’s memories, perspectives and personalities have changed, they are still the same person inside. They need love, patience and understanding.
Amelia’s Grammy was different from the grandmother who used to bake with her and take her out for ice cream, but Amelia never stopped loving her. She found a way to connect with her grandmother in her new reality.
Q: Victoria Marble did such a wonderful job with the illustrations! Can you share some of your favorite spreads and tell us why they’re your favorite?
A: Victoria Marble is an amazing artist. I loved her illustrations from the first time my editor shared the character stretches. Her decision to do Grammy’s past memories in sepia tones was inspiring. She also had to show Grammy’s life in several stages, as a child, a wife, a mother and a grandmother.
It’s not easy to choose favorites, but three come to mind. The beginning page where Amelia is peeking in at her grandmother has so much feeling. Amelia’s eyes appear worried and scared. There is so much emotion on her face. She’s trying to comprehend what is happening to the grandmother she loves.
The page where Amelia is stuffing her notes in the jar holds a special memory for me. I didn’t discover this until months after the book was published. If you turn the page upside down, you can read the words ‘I love you more’ on the notebook. This is something my niece and my mom used to say to each other. I lost my mom to cancer in 1997, so when I discovered this, I felt a sense of wonder that Victoria chose to write those words on that page. It was like receiving a message from my mom.
The last page where Amelia writes a memory that one day will go in her memory jar always chokes me up, and I wrote it!
Q: What makes The Memory Jar the perfect gift or addition to any school or home library?
A: Alzheimer’s and dementia affect so many people, those suffering from memory loss, their loved ones and families, and caregivers. The Memory Jar is a perfect gift for them, as well as for school and home libraries. Memory loss can be confusing to a child. My story explains in simple terms what happens when one’s memory fades. It shows how a lifetime of memories can be lost, and it offers hope. There are ways to connect with loved ones suffering from dementia. It can be as simple as a memory jar where stories are stored and visited.
Thanks again for joining us, Debra! It was a pleasure having you.
Q: Would you like to leave a Treat for the readers?
A: In honor of September 21, World’s Alzheimer’s Day, I’d like to give an autographed paperback copy of The Memory Jar to one lucky reader.
Thanks for such a sweet treat!
Contest Details: To enter to win, simply like and share this post on social media and use the HT #SeasonsOfKidLit. Want 5 bonus entries into her drawing? Comment below and let her know why you can't WAIT to read this sweet book!
The winner will be chosen on or about October 5th.
About Debra Daughtery:
Central Illinois author, Debra Daugherty, enjoys eating cold pizza for breakfast and watching PBS mysteries. She’s a huge fan of London, but her travels are now closer to home. Debra wrote The Memory Jar as a tribute to a beloved aunt who had Alzheimer’s.
She is a member of SCBWI, and is the Illinois chapter’s network representative for the Springfield area. Her writers’ group, The Scribes, meets monthly for critiques and writing programs. Debra’s publishing credits include picture book, Calamity Cat (MeeGenius/HMH, 2013); YA, The Dragon’s Ring (Astraea Press/Clean Reads, 2016); picture book, The Memory Jar (Roan & Weatherford/Young Dragons, 2023); Children’s short story, Let Your Imagination Soar! (Guardian Angel Kids’ ezine, 2013); Children’s short story, The Mystery of the Ghostly Thief (Guardian Angel Kids’ ezine, 2015); and short story, Rachel (Offbeat Reads’ anthology, Adventures on the Go, Book 2, 2021). Her short story, Heart of Stone, won first place in a writing contest in 2015.
For more about Debra, check out the below links:
Twitter/X - https://www.twitter.com/dmddeb
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/DebraDaughertyauthor/
Debra Daugherty: https://mighty-kidlit.mn.co/
To purchase Debra's book on Amazon, or to leave a review for it, click here.