In honor of Grandparent’s Day last month, I compiled a list of picture books featuring grandparents. I then promptly got sicker than a dog for the entire month of September with allergies and assorted other ailments, missed three days of work, and completely forgot to post it. I thought about waiting and posting it next year, but there really isn’t any reason to do that. So here it is as a Friday Feature, a month late and a dollar short, isn’t that how the saying goes? Obviously this list isn’t all inclusive, so leave some of your favorite books featuring grandparents in the comments section below.
Lauren Castillo’s vibrant watercolor illustrations (recognized by the Caldecott Committee for an honor earlier this year) portray fall in the unnamed city with visual illusions to New York. A small boy visits his grandmother and spends the night, at first fearful of the sounds and sights surrounding him. Nana stays up knitting him a “fancy red cape” to wear on their walk as he realizes that the city isn’t so scary after all. In a touching scene, the boy bestows the cape to Nana, probably thinking she needs it more than he does. But Castillo’s pictures show an active and independent elder who relishes the loud and busy nature of the city. The phrases “The city is busy, the city is loud” repeat at the beginning and end of the story, but they take on new mean by the end. The tale of the city mouse and country mouse has been updated for modern times, with succinct and descriptive language perfect for story times involving fall, cities, knitting or nanas.
Full review can be read here.
I asked Grandpa to play ball with me, but he was too busy.
I went to see Grandma, but she was too busy too.
So I asked my ELEPHANT if he wanted to play with me.
One read-headed boy occupies his time at his grandparents by playing with his elephant. It’s not his fault that the elephant messed up the flower bed and the hallway, splashed water all over the bathroom floor, knocked over the orange juice and ate all the cupcakes. Regardless of how imaginary the elephant might be, it a truth commonly ignored that not every visit to the grandparents goes off without a hitch. I love that the elephant is drawn in scribbled crayon, make his imaginary state all the more obvious alongside the more solidly colored (painted/collaged?) characters and setting.
Trixie is visiting her “Oma” and “Opa” in Holland, which is far away. She’s bringing her trusty Knuffle Bunny with her, but if anyone has seen the previous two books, Knuffle Bunny typically has difficulty ending up staying with Trixie. Trixie is sad for a while, but realizes maybe she is growing up and Knuffle Bunny might make some other children happy. Then something unexpected happens that proves her right.
One really big plus with this book is that it’s not Grandma and Grandpa that Trixie visits, but Oma and Opa. Many children have their own names for their grandparents, and being able to find books that use different titles to compare and contrast and lead discussions can be difficult. The fold-out sequence featuring kids in different places is also a nice discussion prompt, but it does make it difficult to use for read-aloud, especially when sharing outdoors on a windy day which I did recently. (As a side note, I remarked that the wind was fighting me and one kid quipped in all seriousness that I should “fight back”.) It shows an all too common occurrence in a child’s life of outgrowing a beloved toy and that it’s okay to grow up and discover new things to enjoy. There is a note to Trixie that is included after the book says “the end” which I usually skip when doing story times, but I heard a couple of parents who have read the story sharing with parents who haven’t. Maybe I’ll start including it, since the parents who are familiar with it seem to get so much joy out of it. It shows Trixie growing up, starting a family and one day receiving a package with a special someone inside for her little toddler to enjoy. This may become one of those stories that, like Knuffle Bunny, gets passed around when the time is right to those who need it.
Grandma Owl carries Mo up to the top of the tree and settles him in for bed. But Mo isn’t sleepy, and Grandma is pulled from her book time and again with requests for a snack, and tucking in, and maybe even playtime. Grandma tells Mo that since he isn’t sleepy and someone has to go to sleep at bedtime, maybe he should put her to bed. All that flying back and forth tuckers him out, just in time for bedtime. The large feathery faces never change, only the eyes and beak and body carry the weight of expressing the love and support the two show for each other. The repeating refrain of “Hop…Jump… Flutter… FLUMP!” as Grandma and eventually Mo ascend to the nest at the top of the tree grounds the story, and makes a nice chorus for read aloud groups. I was slightly disappointed in the illustrations, as although the words describe fading stars and retreating bats, the pictures are solely focused on Grandma and Mo and the end page shows a decidedly nighttime scene when everyone knows owls sleep during the day. It’s still a sweet bedtime story that should be shared with your own owlet.
And when Silas’ mom and dad decided to go away for a few days on a business trip, seven grandparents invited Silas to stay with them.
Is there such a thing as too many grandparents? Silas is only one boy after all, and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by picking one over the other. Nana likes to look at stars, Oma and Opa like to work in the garden and feed the birds, Gamma and Papa like to swim and let him drive the golf cart, and Granny and Grandad took him fishing and canoeing. So instead, he invites all seven of his grandparents to come stay with him. Silas’s collection of multicultural grandparents give the impression of the elderly in all shapes and sizes leading active lifestyles in very different and unique settings. While not every grandparent is as energetic as the ones portrayed, it does spread an important message that you can never have too much love or too many memories of your times together.
Title: Look Back!
Author: Trish Cooke
Illustrator: Caroline Binch
Publisher/Date: Crocodile Books, an imprint of Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., c2014. (originally published in the United Kingdom by Paillote Press)
”Well,” Grannie said, “I have heard that Ti Bolom is short, short, short, his foot long, long, long and flat, flat, flat. He has a big head and two big, black eyes and when you walking alone at night, minding your own business, Ti Bolom walks behind you,
huh huh huh.
But when you turn around… he’s not there. He’s gone!” (unpaged)
After hearing the story of Grannie’s attempts to catch the illusive Ti Bolom when she was living in Dominica in a young child, Christopher attempts to do the same. For such a climatic and engaging story, Christopher’s shortened equivalent version falls flat and provides an anticlimactic ending. I feel like the whole tale would have been stronger if they had left out Christopher’s part, and ended with the uncertainty of where Ti Bolom could be. The drawings are filled with vibrant colors, lifelike down to the wrinkles and muscles and the individual braids and curls on the children’s heads. The dialect is also strong in the narration, mimicking that of an oral story-teller. If done properly, this might make a good story to tell instead of read, or break into a reader’s theatre opportunity. The call and response might have to be prefaced or explained to audiences unfamiliar with that story telling technique.
Title: Tea Cakes for Tosh
Author: Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publisher/Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2012.
Tosh loves when his grandma Honey bakes her golden tea cakes, from a recipe passed down from when his grandma’s grandma’s grandma was a slave cook on a plantation. But then grandma Honey starts forgetting things, like where she parked the car, a phone number, and even the ingredients for the beloved tea cakes. But luckily Tosh has already been taught how to make them, and helps Honey remember the story behind the tradition. An important lesson of learning traditions, recipes, and family history before you are no longer able to learn those stories, but also an introduction for young children to the concept of Alzheimer’s and memory loss. A recipe is included in the back if any readers feel inclined to taste a piece of history.