Tuesday, February 4, 2020

My First Picture Book Roundup of 2020: Celebrating Grandparents

This is my first roundup of 2020 and for it, I chose books about grandparents. My young readers really enjoy picture books about grandmothers and grandfathers and these are some of our favorite books of 2019 that we have been reading over and over again. Have you read them, too?

My Grandma and Me by Mina Javaherbin, 
illustrated by Lindsey Yankey
Candlewick Press, 2019, 32 pages
Now an adult, Mina lovingly remembers her grandmother who was living with her family during her childhood. As a child, Mina loved to do everything her grandma does. Every morning, Mina and her grandmother would greet the day with prayer. Afterward, they would await the delivery of their daily bread, part of which they would share with their neighbors, Mina's best friend Annette and her grandmother. Later, in the garden, while grandmas knitted, Mina and Annette played. When grandma sewed some new chadors, Mina would use the chadors to build a pretend rocket ship, draping them on the table. During Ramadan, Mina always ate with her grandmother, even when she was too young to fast. Grandma sewed Mina's first chador when she was older and together they walked to the mosque. There, grandma prayed that Annette's grandmother would go to heaven, and at church, Annette's grandmother prayed that Mina's grandma would also go to heaven. This warm tribute to her grandmother is also a nice introduction to Islamic traditions and an inclusive Iran unfamiliar to today's kids. The mixed media illustrations are done in soft pastels with lots of Persian elements included. This is an engaging story that should get kids talking about the things they like to do with their own grandparents.
Our Favorite Day written and illustrated by 
Joowon Oh
Candlewick Press, 2019, 32 pages
Every day, an elderly man gets up and follows the same routine: drinking tea, watering plants, tidying up, getting dressed and going downtown. He walks through town, gets an idea, goes to a restaurant for his favorite dumplings, then heads home. The next day, he repeats his routine, except this time he stops in the craft store, gets dumplings to go, and picks some flowers on his way home. Why the change in routine? Thursday is the day his granddaughter visits, and they have a wonderful time together. After eating their dumpling lunch, the two get busy with some new craft supplies, making a beautiful butterfly kite that they take out and fly. Thursdays are definitely their favorite day! This is a debut picture book for Joowon Oh and it is a winner. The illustrations compliment the simple text, and are as sweet as the relationship between grandfather and granddaughter.  

Looking for Yesterday written and illustrated by
Alison Jay
Old Barn Books, 2019, 32 pages
A young boy wishes he could return to yesterday. It was his best day, a day spent with his Grandad, having all kinds of fun and he wants to live it all over again. He spends some time trying to think of ways to go back, like traveling faster than the speed of light to travel counterclockwise, building a time machine, or a super hypersonic rocket. But in the end, nothing seems very plausible, so he asks his Grandad for help. Wise Grandad pulls out his photo album and shows his grandson all the wonderful, happy days he has experienced throughout his life. Granddad's message to his grandson is that the boy still has so many great days ahead of him, there's no need to go back for a do-over since every present moment, every day holds the possibility of being great. The text is fun and a nice blend of science, philosophy and whimsey fully accessible to young readers. Using her signature style, Jay's playful illustrations are done in soft earth tones, adding a coat of crackle varnish to Granddad's old photos to give them an aged look.   

Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz,
illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova
Salaam Reads, 2019, 26 pages
Sometimes it takes a wise grandma to make a kid see just who she is. Every Friday night, Leila goes to her Naani's house for a family dinner with her mom and dad. One night, Naani tells her that the saffron color buttons on her dress really compliment Leila's dark eyes. The compliment makes her feel very happy. So does spending Friday night with her aunts, uncles, and cousins, looking at Naani's Pakistani ornaments, all the books written in Arabic, and helping her grandmother make the chicken curry for their dinner. One night, just before Leila and her parents leave, Naani takes her upstairs to show her some of her beautiful scarves. Leila loves her grandmother's scarves and asks if she can try one on. The sparkle and shine of the saffron color scarf she picks is perfect for Leila and makes her feel exactly like who she is - a beautiful Pakistani girl proud of her heritage. And this beautiful warm mixed-media illustrated book done in a palette of bold oranges and greens with touches of other colors nicely conveys the Pakistani heritage that Leila loves so much. 

Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki,
illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Kids Can Press, 2019, 32 pages
Every summer, Mayumi travels to Japan to visit her grandfather. Together, they work on his lovely garden that Ojiichan had began before Mayumi was born. The garden is made up of large and small stones, and edged with plantings and a sheltered bench for relaxing and sharing a lunchtime onigiri or rice ball bento. Over time, Ojiichan teaches Mayumi everything she needs to know about caring for the garden, and that has become such a special place, loved by granddaughter and grandfather as much as they love each other. But one year, when Mayumi arrives at her grandfather's house, she sees that the garden has been neglected and is overgrown. Grandfather is no longer able to care for it, and in fact, he can no longer live alone his home. As Mayumi's parents pack up the house, she tries to think of a way to keep their beloved garden alive for both of them. Sure enough, using their lacquered bento box that once held their lunch, Mayumi creates a lovely tribute to Ojiichan and their garden. This is a lovely intergenerational affective story with watercolor illustrations that are a gentle and poignant as the text. 
When I Found Grandma by Saumiya Balasubramaniam,
illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundwood Books, 2019, 32 pages
Maya, whose Grandma lives far away in India, really wishes they lived closer together the way her best friend Kim and her grandmother do. But when Grandma comes to visit, Maya's excitement doesn't last very long. When Grandma comes to school to pick her up wearing a colorful sari and lots of bangles, Maya is embarrassed and refuses to let her hold her hand. And why can't Grandma call her Maya instead of Mayalakshmi? But when Grandma wants to go to the temple to pray before going to the amusement park, Maya angrily storms back into her room. Grandma, trying to please Maya, changes her sari for a pair of pants, then buys a red baseball cap, calling it her "all-American hat." Later, when Maya gets lost at the park, it's that red baseball cap that helps her find her way back to her family. That night, Maya decides to give Grandma a second chance. This is a skillful intergenerational story about accepting cultural differences and learning how to compromise. Slowly, Maya goes from angry and embarrassed by her grandmother to feelings of affection and love, and learns to appreciate who her Grandma is. Leng's ink and watercolor illustrations harmonize perfectly with the text, capturing the whole range of Maya and her grandmother's emotions.

Where Are YouFrom? by Yamile Saied Méndez,
illustrated by Jaime Kim
HarperCollins, 2019, 32 pages
When people keep asking a young girl where she's from, and where her mom or dad is from, she tells them all she's from today, like everyone else. When they still aren't satisfied with her answer, she turns to the person whom she believes knows everything - her Abuelo. Going for a walk together, he tells her she is from the Pampas, a region in Argentina. Where she descends "from the gaucho, brave and strong," where there is a cleansing river, that feeds the land, which feeds the people. And she is from Puerto Rico, the land of warm blue oceans, and palm trees, a land "where our ancestors built a home for all, even when they were in chains because of the color of their skin." As her Abuelo answers his granddaughters question, they walk through beautiful two page watercolor spreads of the different landscapes for the places he is telling her about. Told in lyrical prose, this is a loving paean to one child's different cultural roots and "the love of all those before us, from those who dreamt of you because of a song sung under the Southern Cross or the words in a book written under the light of the North Star...You are from all of us." This is just such a beautiful book on understanding the connection between identity and heritage. A perfect book for Americans, almost of all whom come from somewhere else.
Hey Grandude! by Paul McCartney,
illustrated by Kathryn Durst
Random House BFYR, 2019, 32 pages
I don't usually do celebrity books, but I made an exception here because it isn't a famous person ego trip, just a picture book. It's a grey, drizzly day out and Grandude's four grandchildren, whom he calls Chillers, are bored and grumpy. Cheerful Grandude pulls out a pile of postcards and a magic compass, utters the magic words "See the compass needle spin,/let the magic fun begin!" Next thing they know, they find themselves on a sunny beach. And it's great fun until, uh oh, suddenly the beach is crawling with pinchy crabs. Grandude pulls out his magic compass, utters the magic words, and he and the Chillers are off to a warm desert, having fun riding horses until, uh oh, a herd of buffalo comes rushing at them. Granddude repeats the magic words again and it's off to another adventure that also ends unpleasantly. Finally, the fourth adventure brings them home, tired and safely tucked in bed. I wasn't that crazy about this book, but my young readers loved it, so much so, we read it a number of times in one sitting. Their conclusion about the magic compass and the adventures Grandude and the Chillers went on - they didn't really go anywhere, but Grandude made up great stories and they just felt like they had left the house. Their other conclusion - sometimes home is the best place to be. The enthusiasm of my young readers was good enough for me, and it led to a wonderful lesson on the compass and what it is really used for

I Miss My Grandpa 
written and illustrated by Jin Xiaojing
Little, Brown BFYR, 2019, 34 pages
In this lovely picture book, a young girl goes on a journey to find out about the grandfather she never knew. She begins by asking her Grandma what her Grandpa looked like. Grandma's answers send the girl to her Uncle Mason, her Uncle Chang-zi, her Uncle Leo, her Aunt Zai-zi, her cousin Aiden, and finally her mom. Each of these relatives adds more about who her Grandpa was to what her Grandma had said, until finally she tells her granddaughter that he is still living within all these family members, including his grandchild, who also happens to have his hair. This is such a wonderful celebration and tribute to those who are no longer in our lives themselves, but how we nevertheless carry them with us everyday and pass them down to our future generations. My Kiddo never knew my dad because he died when I was still in my teens, but like the young girl in this book, she often asked about him. I read this book with her on her last visit from China and it really generated a different kind conversation about my dad and who he was. Also, the story is translated into Mandarin on the back end papers. My Kiddo read it to me in Chinese and even though I didn't understand everything I heard, it still sounded lovely (and yes, over time I have picked up some Mandarin). Jin Xiaojing's visually textured illustrations, using colored pencil, watercolor, oil pastel and dip pen, are done mainly in blue, red, and yellow shades, adding a dreamlike quality to the text. An original story that celebrates the people who make us who we are, even if they are no longer living.   

You can find even more favorite picture books about grandparents HERE

1 comment:

  1. I've read some but not all. I loved Our Favorite Day, Looking for Yesterday and Ojiichan's Gift, will find the others! Thanks, Alex!


Imagination Designs