Wake Up, Jacob!

3 November 2021

Wake Up, Jacob!
by Neil Sawatzky
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783451

I’m a huge fan of collaborating with family members on creative projects, thus was delighted to read that Neil Sawatzky—the author of the new illustrated children’s book Wake Up, Jacob!—is the father of Heather Nickel, who owns and operates Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, and is responsible for bringing hundreds of books into the world. This father-daughter team has produced a heartfelt softcover that “parallel[s] the daily activities of a young boy and his grandfather,” and to even further extend the familial connection, Sawatzky’s dedicated the book to his own father, and a photograph of the author and his two grandchildren reading a book together appears inside the back cover.

Here’s the truth: I had a lump in my throat after reading just two pages of this brightly-sketched story. On page one we find young Jacob’s mother rousing him from sleep in his bed, and on the opposite page, a healthcare aide in a seniors’ facility is similarly waking the same-named elder. Child Jacob—in green pajamas, and with his wide-eyed teddy bear nearby—stretches simultaneously with his white-moustached grandpa on the facing page. The story continues as the pair greet the day with their own similar routines, ie: as Jacob and his teddy bear sit on the rug to watch morning cartoons on TV, Jacob senior sits on a couch to watch the morning news, and while little Jacob “Downward Dogs” on a yoga mat beside his mother, Grandpa lifts hand-weights in a chair.

There’s little text in this book, and little’s required. The colourful illustrations spread across most of each page tell much of the story. Easy-to-read black print against a white background appears at the bottom. As with poetry, less words are more here, ie: beneath an illustration of young Jacob napping, the text reads simply “Nap time.” On the corresponding page, Grandpa Jacob’s fallen asleep while reading in his chair—did I mention the realism here?—and the text beneath this image is: “Just resting your eyes?” Perfect.

Both the author and publisher live in Regina, and there are hints of Saskatchewan here, ie: the green S on the cap of the friend Grandpa’s playing checkers with is a nod to the Roughriders. The younger Jacob paints an elevator on his easel while his grandfather paints the finishing touches on an elevator-shaped birdhouse.

I appreciate several things about this story, including the fact that Grandpa continues to live a full and happy life while in care (a welcome contradiction re: the negative stereotypes often associated with longterm care facilities). The close emotional bond between the two Jacobs melts my heart. As a bonus, at the book’s conclusion Sawatzky’s included a list of ten items for young readers to find within the story.

As someone who has frequently worked in seniors’ facilities (providing musical entertainment for residents), and as a daughter whose own father moved out of his own home and into care just two weeks ago, this inter-generational, fact-of-life story deeply resonated, wheelchair and all.


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