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Feedback please - Do you think this is too upsetting? 7-10 years olds Thanks.

Chapter 8 – An afternoon with Ruby

 

Archie tried to put the thoughts of McDonalds to the back of his mind. The picture of Nanny Porshina crying on the floor kept replaying in his thoughts, and it made him feel helpless. He decided that a visit to Ruby and Green Eye might cheer him up. He made his way to their cosy little flat near the marketplace. He rapped hard on the door, the knocker was made of gold and shaped like a cat’s eye. Ruby came to the door and said ‘Archie, what a pleasant surprise, come on in’. Green Eye was sitting at the table, playing a game on his tablet. Ruby looked as if she was in the middle of concocting some new potion to sell on her stall. There were bottles and pans, some with gloopy stuff in, boiling on the stove.

‘To what do we owe the pleasure’ said Ruby. Green Eye finally looked up from his tablet. In a voice that didn’t sound convincing, Archie said. ‘No reason, I just thought I’d pop in.’ Green Eye studied his good friend and said, ‘What’s up?’ Archie thought, damn Green Eye knows me too well. Green Eye looked at him in a quizzical way and said, ‘I can tell something isn’t right Archie, come on spill the beans.’

Archie swallowed, he was just about to tell them about his concerns regarding Nanny Porshina, when she appeared. ‘Is that Davey?’ she said. Green Eye corrected her, ‘Nanny its Archie’. She asked again, ‘Is that Davey?’ Green Eye corrected her a second time. Nanny kept asking the same thing repeatedly. It was getting frustrating. Ruby suddenly stopped what she was doing and said, ‘Nanny, can you help me with the stirring?’ She cradled her hand and guided her towards the pots and pans. Nanny seemed to forget her question and happily stirred the pots, singing to herself. Ruby said, ‘Sometimes she gets stuck in a loop, repeating what she’s said over and over. This is one symptom of dementia. All you have to do is distract her to take her mind off of it’.

 Archie looked down. He knew he had to ask, although he really didn’t want to. ‘Is Nanny going to get better?’  ‘Sit down,’ said Ruby.  Green Eye came over to sit alongside him. ‘I’m afraid not. Dementia can get progressively worse and affects her memory and her behaviour.’ A tear fell down Archies cheek and he did nothing to hide it. This was devastating news. ‘Can’t the doctors do anything?’ he asked.  Ruby replied, ‘No Archie, but they are making discoveries in medicine all the time, maybe one day there will be a cure.’ ‘Can’t you cast a spell and make her better?’ said Archie. Ruby smiled tenderly, ‘No Archie, magic will not help in this situation, but never forget, she is still Nanny and somewhere deep inside she is still the Nanny we know and love.

Archie felt he wanted to run away and curl up somewhere, he wanted to hide from all of this. It was so unfair. Ruby said, ’ Archie, remember she is two hundred years old and has had a fantastic life. Witches don’t live forever. What we must do now is make her comfortable and able to live the rest of her life in a safe environment.

‘What does that mean?’ said Archie. Ruby replied, ‘She will go to live in the Home for Old Witches. We can visit her anytime. It is a lovely place where they are exceedingly kind, and they will know how to look after her’. Archie took a while to consider this information. ‘You mean she will not live here’. Ruby and Green Eye nodded, Green Eye put his paw around his friend to comfort him. Out of the blue, Nanny said ‘Archie, what fun we had under the sea, we must do it again.’ Then she turned back to her pot and continued stirring the gloop. ‘Come Archie’, said Green Eye, ‘let’s play the game ‘Call of duty’ on my tablet, bet I can beat you’. It was a good attempt to take Archie’s mind off of the subject, and it surprised Archie at how quickly it worked.

Eventually it was time for Archie to leave, and he said goodbye to his friends. Nanny said, ‘Archie, you will come and visit me in my new home, won’t you?’ Now she seemed so normal, as if nothing were wrong at all. This disease was so confusing.

A few days later, Archie received a note posted through the door from Green Eye, Nanny had now gone to live in the home for old witches, called ‘Middle Acres’. They were visiting her on Friday if he wanted to join them. The note explained directions and what to expect when he got there, it read:

The building is in ‘Welling Road’. There is no obvious gate to the building, but a brick wall surrounds it. You must count ten bricks from the bottom and knock hard. It doesn’t matter which part of the wall you knock at, but it must be ten bricks up. A gate will appear and open. You will then see two enormous stone statues of witches and a path leading to the front door. The two statues will come to life and cross their broom sticks in front of you. You must say the passwords to get past them, it is ‘Nettles, kettles and bats.’ You must say it exactly like this or they will not let you in, they may even turn you into stone. Once you have got past them, you follow the path to the front door. Flying above, you will see security bats. They are there to prevent unwanted intruders and give off a very high-pitched noise that stops you in your tracks. At the front door knock loudly and a witch will greet you asking you for another password. This password is ‘Frog Farts’. Once they are happy you are friendly, they will ask who you want to see and let you in. We will already be there. She is in room 10001. Good luck, hope to see you there.

Your Good friend
 Green Eye.

Archie read the note several times. Yes, he would love to visit but was slightly afraid, he better note the passwords down, he didn’t want to get them wrong. He thought about what he would take to Nanny Porshina as a housewarming gift. He would try to get some of his aunt’s home-baked biscuits, and he would pick some flowers from the garden to welcome her into her new home. He hoped it was a pleasant home, but from Green Eyes note, it sounded quite scary.

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Replies (6)
  • Hi Debbie - it's been a while since I was reading this age group to my kids, but I know it needs to be easy to follow, using a lot more tell that you would in older books. I think you've done a good job of that, and I think you've handled the subject very sensitively. You keep the story moving and keep it interesting, so I think it's well pitched. It's probably going to be a bit scary whatever you do, but I think you've handled it well.

    I haven't read your earlier chapters, so you may well have touched on this, but have you dealt with the fact that this disease can't be caught - I remember being quite frightened as a young child coming into contact with someone who had diabetes. I didn't know what it was and was worried I'd get it by touching the person. Also, is there reassurance that this isn't a disease that (usually) affects young people? The child doesn't have to worry they'll start suffering from it tomorrow?

    A couple of other small things: 

    You use 'damn', and I know I wouldn't have been happy about that when reading to my 7 YO.

    I think this is a bit misleading 'somewhere deep inside she is still the Nanny we know'. 

    You mention the game 'Call of Duty', which is an 18 rated game and definitely not appropriate for this,

    It may just be the formatting of the website, but you have all the actions and speech of people running together. If it's not the website, you need to separate them out. That will also create more white page and will be more inviting to a child's eyes. Like this:

    Archie tried to put the thoughts of McDonalds to the back of his mind. The picture of Nanny Porshina crying on the floor kept replaying in his thoughts, and it made him feel helpless. He decided that a visit to Ruby and Green Eye might cheer him up. 

    He made his way to their cosy little flat near the marketplace. He rapped hard on the door, the knocker was made of gold and shaped like a cat’s eye. 

    Ruby came to the door and said ‘Archie, what a pleasant surprise, come on in’. 

    Green Eye was sitting at the table, playing a game on his tablet. Ruby looked as if she was in the middle of concocting some new potion to sell on her stall. There were bottles and pans, some with gloopy stuff in, boiling on the stove. 

    Hope some of that is useful.

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    • Kate this is brilliant feedback. I really like the idea of not being able to catch it and not a disease young people get. I will weave that in somewhere, probably near the beginning. Yes formatting not great this is a first draft. Thanks for these suggestions.

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      • That made me laugh, I hadn’t thought about the call of duty being an 18, I’ll have to find a more appropriate one! Thanks for pointing this out!

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        • Minecraft?

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        • agree with the others. on the whole I think it is sensitively written and gives a good picture of dementia. we shouldn't be scared to cover upsetting topics for children. real children experience upsetting things and it can be helpful to know that a character in a book has handled it ok. the lion king and bambi deal with loss of a parent. kids cry at the sad bits but they are helped by the fact that the characters go on to be strong and happy. young kids also understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. I think it is brilliant that you are tacking dementia for them.

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          • Thanks Kate, I really appreciate the feedback.

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