Kid's Stuff -- Books About Grandparents
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"Grandma's Beach"
Written by Rosalind Beardshaw
Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
(Bloomsbury, 2001)

When Emily's mother is called in to work on the day when she's promised to take Emily to the beach, she leaves the kid off with her grandmother, who magically makes everything alright. Grandma creates a pretend day at the beach, and generally acts silly and plays up a storm with the eager little girl. This book's a little rough around the edges: the disappointment Emily feels at the beginning is pretty strong, and the rest of the narrative is a bit clunky, and the whole book feels kinda off. But, for parents and kids who have a lot of scheduling conflicts, this might provide an opportunity to talk about things. (C)


"A Beautiful Seashell"
Written by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
Illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein
(Harper & Row, 1990)

A sweet, simple story of an old, old woman telling a story about her childhood to her great-granddaughter... It's a story about the Old Country, and a day when Grandmother found a seashell in the waters at the beach as she watched a ocean liner passing by... She passes down the story of her emigration to the new land even as she passes along the seashell itself (she'd kept it all these years, and gives it to the little girl) A subtly evocative story of the handing down of matrilineal knowledge, also just a nice story to read to little kids who appreciate their elders... Recommended. (B+)


"When You Visit Grandma And Grandpa"
Written by Anne Bowen
Illustrated by Tomek Bogacki
(Carolrhoda, 2004)

(-)


"Marigold And Grandma On The Town"
Written by Stephanie Calmenson
Illustrated by Mary Chalmers
(Harper Collins, 1994)

A lovely chapter-book about a little girl bunny-rabbit named Marigold who goes out for a shopping trip with her kindly grandmother. They go to a department store together and buy a summer hat, then to the park, then out for a bite to eat, and finally just to have some goofy fun in a photo booth. There's lot of activity, the artwork is nice, the level of the writing isn't completely moronic, and the emotional interplay is fairly nuanced and complex. At the heart of it is an innocent, straightforward portrait of a little girl (about four?) learning how to find her place in the world. She's too shy to tell a saleswoman that her new hat is uncomfortable, and she cries when she thinks her grandmother will be disappointed when she isn't "wonderful" enough to show off to her friends. The grandmother eases Marigold's self-consciousness by assuring her that she'll always be wonderful as far as she's concerned -- but that she still wants her to eat with a fork when she's sitting at the table. We really enjoyed this book and were sad to find that, while Calmenson has written numerous picturebooks, this appears to be the only Marigold book available. Definitely worth checking out.. (A)


"Grandpa's Garden Lunch"
Written by Judith Casely
Illustrated by Judith Casely
(Greenwillow, 1990)
Grandpa takes his granddaughter out to the garden to sow seeds, raise plants and them they have a meal with the food they raised and the flowers they grew.... This book's a little clunky, but with its heart in the right place.
(B-)


"Grandad's Magic"
Written by Bob Graham
Illustrated by Bob Graham
(Walker, 1989)

Alison's grandfather visits every Sunday for lunch, and he always has something his sleeve to amuse the grandkids. He's been teaching her how to juggle and he pulls prizes out of the baby's ear. One day he gets it in his head to try his old showstopper, the big yank-out-the-tablecloth trick. It works, but just barely, and he almost breaks Mom's favorite knick-knacks, prompting Alison to wonder, Is Grandad going to get in trouble? A funny story from Graham's early work -- readers who like 2001's Let's Get A Pup! Said Kate and the sequel, The Trouble With Dogs, will get a kick out of Rupert, the lumpy, lazy couchhog family dog, a clear prototype for lovable Rosie in the Kate books. Worth checking out! (B)


"Tangerines And Tea -- My Grandparents And Me"
Written by Ona Grines
Illustrated by Yumi Heo
(Harry N. Abrams, 2005)

An offbeat, kooky alphabet book -- the letters aren't placed in the foreground here, but rather each page features a short sentence with three or so words starting with that letter... "A nap at noon in a noisy room... The perfect friend for playing pretend..." Artist Yumi Heo's graphics include some of her more restrained, relatively conventional work... This one didn't wow my little girl, but older kids might enjoy it more. It's a new approach, for sure, and if that's what you're looking for, this is a nice, artsy option. (C+)


"I'm Going To Grandma's "
Written by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Tiffany Beeke
(Harcourt, 2007)

A cute story, with rhyming text, about a little girl who spends her first sleepover night-away-from home over at her grandparent's house. She's brave and happy right up until bath time, when she realizes she misses her home... But Grandma talks her down off the ledge by telling her a story about the handmade quilt on the bed, a family heirloom that traces back over several generations and wraps the girl in it's comforting, matrilineal warmth. I'm a big fan of Tiffany Beeke's artwork, and Ms. Hoberman's writing is particularly strong in this one. Worth checking out, especially for the more girly-minded readers among us. (A-)


"My Hippie Grandmother"
Written by Reeve Lindberg
Illustrated by Abby Carter
(Candlewick, 2003)

The author's grandmother was not a hippie -- although her parents were, in fact, the esteemed Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindberg -- but the cultural divide is easily bridged in this well-written, lighthearted, playful celebration of the life-embracing aspects of hippie culture. A little girl loves hanging out with her fun-loving grandmother, who drives a purple bus, grows organic food, pickets city hall at lunchtime and sings folk songs on the banjo. Her grandmother smiles beatifically and encourages the girl to believe she can do anything she wants to in life, and naturally one of the girl's goals is to grow up just like her Nana. It's a sweet story, laced with wry humor but also respectful of an often-mocked subculture. The artwork is fun, too, as is the writing, which is unusually strong, particularly in the effective, consistent rhyme pattern. Recommended... even if you don't like flowery garlands or the Grateful Dead. (A)

"Lucky Morning"
Written by Sally Noll
Illustrated by Sally Noll
(Greenwillow, 1994)

A sweet story, but clunky execution. A little girl named Nora goes on a hike with her grandfather, taking in the splendor of rural Montana, where they see horses, deer, and even bear and elk. That's all pretty neat, but if you rely on the written text, the story is a little hard to follow... Details are skipped over and some information is only presented visually, making massive paraphrasing and improvisation necessary, which is fine sometimes, but not always. If the story appeals to you, it may be worth the extra effort to make it work. (C-)


"My Two Grandmothers"
Written by Effin Older
Illustrated by Nancy Hayashi
(Harcourt, 2000)

This book focuses on multiculturalism between Jewish and Christian families... A young girl named Lily spends time with two sets of grandparents, her moxie-ful, effusive urban Bubbe Silver, and her more WASP-ish Grammy Lane, who has a farmhouse and likes to go golfing. She enjoys Christmas and Hannukah, as well as other private family rituals, but one day Lily becomes sad that the grandparents don't get to share their family traditions. So, Lily invites everyone together for a new event, the "grandmother's party," where they all do the same stuff together... The plot is a bit forced and stereotype-laden, but the book may ring true for many mixed families (although moreso for the parents than for the children, I suspect...) Worth checking out. (C+)


"Grandpa Abe"
Written by Marisabina Russo
Illustrated by Marisabina Russo
(Greenwillow, 1996)

This one's kinda heavy... You'll probably only want to read it if you need to. A young girl named Sarah recalls how she met her "Grandpa" Abe, her grandmother's second husband who is there, year after year in her life, being a great guy... Until he abruptly dies, and then the family remembers and honors him and his gracious spirit. If you haven't dealt with death and dying yet, you'll probably want to steer clear of this volume, but if the death of a grandparent is an issue in your family, I can't imagine a better book to help deal with the shock and surprise of it all. As with many of Russo's books, this has a beautiful emotional core, and deals with sorrow and grief in a really touching, moving way. Recommended. (A)


"Emily Just In Time"
Written by Jan Slepian
Illustrated by Glo Coalson
(Putnam/Philomel, 1998)

I absolutely love Glo Coalson's artwork, and the gently rendered transitions from toddler to pre-teen than are subtly placed in this story are what make this book so touching. The story is sweet, too, about a little girl named Emily who grows "from not-being-able to now-she-can," learning how to go down the slide, do somersaults, and -- ultimately -- to spend the night away from home. The story is sweet, although the text is rather clunky... I regularly shorten various pages and change the wording, but my daughter loves this book. She was especially drawn to it because she has a little rocking chair just like the one in the book, and had just learned how to sit in it when we first picked Emily up. This might not be for everyone, but our family really likes it. (B+)


"When I Was Little Like You"
Written by Jill Paton Walsh
Illustrated by Stephen Lambert
(Viking, 1997)

A sweet, sentimental story of a little girl and her grandmother walking through the countryside along the English shore, with the little girl, Rosie, pointing things out -- ships, trains, shops -- and the grandmother telling Rosie how different things were when she was young. The book ends on a touching note -- with the grandmother saying that, for all its changes, the world is better now that it has Rosie in it. The visual alternations between the present day and the past -- with the grandmother pictured as a little girl -- may be a little confusing to younger readers. Reaction to this book was fairly muted, overall... I think it was a little hard to follow... (C+)


"Yoko's Paper Cranes"
Written by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
(Hyperion, 2001)

The most enchanting and beautifully illustrated of Well's "Yoko" books, this tells the story of how Yoko came to America from her home in Japan, and how she kept in touch with her grandparents in Japan, writing letters, cards and thank you notes all year long. When it was winter time in Japan, Yoko decided to send her grandmother a present of some paper cranes, to remind Obasan about the birds they had seen together in the Spring. She folds the origami paper just as her grandfather had shown her and send the package to her delighted grandparents. The story is sweet, but the illustrations are fabulous -- some of the best artwork Wells has ever done. Wells incorporates Asian motifs into the graphics, and frames each panel with beautifully patterned paper... The first edition also had a bright gold gilt running through the pictures -- there's still a metallic sheen on later editions, although not quite as vivid as the first version... All in all, a wonderfully classy book: a real favorite. (A)


"Grandma's Hurrying Child"
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Kay Chorao
(Gulliver, 2005)

A fairly straightforward birthing story... A little girl asks her grandmother to tell her -- one more time -- the story of the day she was born. After the mother went into labor, Grandma rushed across three states to get there, and just barely made it in the nick of time. On the way, she knits a little blanket with bunnies on it, which the little girl uses to this day. Somehow, this kind of story doesn't do much for me -- they're often too specific and not universal enough; yes, birthing is magical, but it's also personal, and reading a picturebook that has concrete details about someone else's birth seems uncomfortably close to having to watch their slide show, or being sent a link to their baby webpages. I dunno; I'm sure for some readers, this'd be a real weeper. Didn't do much for me, though. (C+)




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