Singing with Momma Lou

By School Library Journal

It’s Sunday, and the rainy sky is as gray as Tamika’s mood as she and her family set off for their weekly visit to the nursing home. The Jordans are going to see Momma Lou, who has Alzheimer’s disease. The nine-year-old must reintroduce herself to this aged lady every week, and the whole situation makes her resentful and uncomfortable. Later, poring over old photo albums with her father, she sees Momma Lou dressed for her wedding in an African bridal robe, cuddling her newborn namesake, and dressing Tamika like an angel for he first Christmas pageant. Seeing these pictures makes the girl try to give Momma Lou her memories back by showing her the photos. Sometimes they seem to trigger a response in the old woman’s eyes, especially the shot of her in jail following a protest march. ‘My secret life of crime,’ says Momma Lou, before bursting into laughter and song. Soon people in the nursing home are singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ along with her. This is the last time that Tamika really talks with her grandmother, who declines rapidly after this visit, leaving the child sad, yet happy to have her memories. The book concludes with a brief description of the disease and a list of resources for further information. This bibliotherapeutic title will help to serve need, and the story is straightforward and inspirational. Johnson’s acrylic paintings are done in somber and institutional hues, which prove a suitable backdrop for this thoughtful story.