Friday, February 26, 2010


Hmm, most women over sixty that I know these days color their hair, but these storybook seniors are so fabulous they may be setting some new trends. Today, it's a grandma-a-go-go (with a grandpa or two for good measure)!

MY ABUELITA by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Harcourt)
Then my abuelita booms out words, loud and clear. She always says the words should be as round as dimes and as wild as blossoms blooming.

A little boy helps his grandmother get ready for work. But what job requires a scarf like a cloud that flows down to the ground, practice at singing like a frog, a skeleton and plumed snake packed into the back seat of a car, and a crown of stars? A storyteller, of course! The grandson's pride and delight is palpable as he joins his charismatic elder from preparation to performance. Figurative language permeates the text: Abuelita is like a calabeza, a pumpkin, with hair the color of salt and a face crinkled like a dried chile. After her morning shower, she looks like a great big bee, wrapped in her black and yellow towel, and at breakfast, fried eggs look like stars. What a boon for teaching simile and metaphor in context! Best of all is the artwork, with an award-winning illustrator trying a new technique of photographing her hand-crafted poppets in scenes brimming with miniatures, but maintaining her signature sunburned palette, as vibrant as streamers hanging from a pinata. Be sure to look for the family cat, "Frida Kahlo," padding through the pages adorned with a posy atop her feline face like the painting of her namesake, and the double-page spread of the convertible car stuffed with props is nothing short of a wonder. Check out this charming video (and share with young readers) to see how Madame Morales created her work of art. This book is a tribute to the unique, contagious energy of grandmothers-- and storytellers-- everywhere. (5 and up)

P.S. Fun fact for fans of Yuyi Morales (who isn't?): her sister, Magaly Morales, has also started illustrating picture books...kind of like what Venus and Serena Williams did to raise the bar for tennis, this duo will do for picture books! "Love!"

PEENY BUTTER FUDGE by Toni and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda (Simon & Schuster) Mom has left a schedule on the refrigerator while she steps away for a few hours, but Nana has her own agenda that the children are pleased as punch to follow, full of storytime and sack races, dancing, puzzles and a finale of putting together a delicious dessert: peeny butter fudge. Lots of approximate rhymes are for the effect of a rambunctious flow more than any tight meter; this is a book about breaking the rules in order to have some fun. The illustrations really "make" this title; an electric palette and jaunty angles give this visit a special energy. Though Grandma's hair is white, the rejuvenation she feels amidst her grandchildren is palpable, and the details elicit sensory response; can't you just hear Nana's roaring laugh as the children surround her, pretending to be doctors and trying to fix her, or can't you feel the breeze from the window as the family crowds and cuddles together for a nap on mussed blankets? When Mama returns from errands and sees the kitchen in disarray, her anger is kept at bay with by a poignant wordless flashback to cooking with her mother in her own childhood, and it's hard not to catch your heart in your throat. This book has a notable and genuine intimacy, sharing something very true and touching about love in a family that tugs at the heart. No saccharine here, though, only real, sweet sugar both in this story and in the recipe included for a batch of "peeny butter fudge" (though you'll have to supply your own Nana). (5 and up)

Also of interest:
More quality time with grandparents.
OUR GRANDPARENTS: A GLOBAL ALBUM by Maya Ajmera, Sheila Kinkade and Cynthia Pon (Charlesbridge) Babu or Bibi? Opa or Oma? Dada or Dadi? Zayde or Bubbe? Whatever you call them, grandparents are people who love and encourage, listen and play, teach, share, celebrate, and take care of us; we take care of them in return. These attributes shine in the smiles of the people in outstanding, emotive photographs from all corners of the globe, simple text aligned with images both personal and universal that speak a thousand words. With a foreword by Archibishop Desmond Tutu, this is one of the books from the very lovely collection of books from the Global Fund for Children collection. (3 and up)

NANA CRACKS THE CASE! by Kathleen Lane, illustrated by Sarah Horne (Chronicle)
You've got to love a book where one of the first lines is "It did seem that Nana had all of the qualifications necessary to be a detective." Indeed, this grandma has a formidable wig collection, a sneaky streak, and leaves a book on her kitchen table, The Joy of Napping, to throw the people who expect her to be good and proper (ech!) off the trail of her true nature. But to Nana's mischievous grandchildren, her vocation is no mystery, and they join her as she tries to discover who stole the precious chocolate Yumdums and compensate for Nana's unfortunate Mr. Magoo-like streak. This early grade novella is a teeny bit tricky to follow in spots mostly due to the zany plot and the POV in which an invisible narrator directly addresses the reader, but has definitely cracked the case when it comes to voice and wry humor. This first time author is one to keep under investigation. (8 and up)

Speaking of fun novels for newer readers, be sure to check out LOOK OUT, JEREMY BEAN! by Alice Schertle, illustrated by David Slonim (Chronicle), oh my goodness, what a little read-aloud gem, the best since Ann Cameron's shamefully out-of print STORIES JULIAN TELLS. Good things come in a small package with these three short stories about a little fella finding his footing in a perplexing and competitive world: one St. Patrick's Day story (saints be praised, when was the last time we had some realistic fiction with that theme?), one story in which Julian is thrown by the term "dust bunnies" in true Ramona Quimby style, and one really beautiful story, the first one, about a grandfather's patient guidance in helping Jeremy discover what unique collection he can bring to school for a class assignment. The presence and importance of the grandparent is very natural in the life of this character, and the writing portrays the relationship in a light of loving friendship that some lucky children will recognize. This author already wrote one of my favorite poetry books of the year, and continues to show her tremendous versatility and heart. (7 and up)

TOAD COTTAGES & SHOOTING STARS: GRANDMA'S BAG OF TRICKS by Sharon Lovejoy (Workman) How about a little grandparent-y nonfiction? This book boasts "130 Wonder-Filled Grandchild-Friendly Activities!" Exclamation point! This author uses her extensive expertise in the garden (demonstrated in SUNFLOWER HOUSES and ROOTS, SHOOTS, BUCKETS & BOOTS) to help children and their relationships with grandparents grow as high as a runner bean. Fairy boxes, firefly lanterns and campfire stories are old-school fun, and even if some ideas are perennial, this book infuses them with a contagious energy and a love of nature, plus plenty of pretty spot illustrations and photographs that conspire to inspire both young and old grown-ups to take a child firmly in hand and walk down the garden path. (Parenting)

Please check out my vintage post for more outstanding reads on this theme, including Reeve Lindbergh's MY LITTLE GRANDMOTHER SOMETIMES FORGETS and MY HIPPIE GRANDMOTHER, both representing common experiences kids might have with the seniors in their lives, and absolutely do not miss sharing Ed Young's I, DOKO (Philomel, 5 and up), a haunting and provocative picture book parable set in Japan told from the point of view of a basket, in which a few choice words from a little boy remind a family to care for the elderly in the manner they would wish for themselves. And! Since the last giveaway went so well, let's try another one: share your favorite reading memory about someone over sixty-five or name another favorite grandparent character from children's literature in the comments section below by the end of the day on March 1, 2010 and be entered a random drawing for a copy of Sharon Lovejoy's TOAD COTTAGES AND SHOOTING STARS! Good luck and thanks for sharing!

On a personal note: This post is dedicated to my friend in library school, Kym Gotches, one of the most cheerful people I know. Even though she's a spring chicken herself, she always reminds us of the importance of intergenerational programming in libraries, and that age is something to celebrate. Thanks for the inspiration!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
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Swati said...

When I was very young, I used to snuggle up with my grandmother for bedtime stories in the summer vacations. She did not have children's books to read to me, but she would translate and abridge classic stories for me. Much later, when I read writers like Somerset Maugham or Premchand, I finally recognized old favourites. She is no more, but I still remember those stories.

Prairie Mother said...

My favorite reading memory of my grandmother is actually very recent. When my twins were toddlers, just a few years ago, she clustered them both on her lap and read them a bedtime story. Her voice was so animated and engaging even I was drawn in!

Burgin Streetman said...

That video was fabulous! How inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

lenore louhi said...

I have to say that some of my favorite grandparents are Mr. and Mrs. Murray from An Acceptable Time and Madeleine L'Engle's other books about Polly O'Keefe. I like how they provide a loving and respectful home and place for her to grow as a teenager, a time of life when I think kids often lose touch with grandparents.

Mia J. said...

One of my favorite things is to hear my mom read a story to her granddaughter, my little girl. They snuggle up real close and just have the best time sharing a story.

silverwhitewinters said...

I love Grandma Dowdel from A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, A Season of Gifts--her wonderful combination of humor and heart keeps bringing me back for rereads!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I loved reading this post and felt especially honored to see my new Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars in the line-up.

You have no idea how often I turn to your posts for inspiration. Keep up your great work...and did you see that I mentioned you and your books in Toad Cottages?? I turn to them to help educate Grands about getting their grandchildren enchanted with good books.

All joys to you,
Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Darlene said...

favorite grandparent character is the grandfather in Heidi

Susan said...

My grandmother would read me some great stories, I miss her so much, great video!

Unknown said...

My grandmother was my best friend and the one who showed me the beauty of books. I love books because of her.

The Nowotny Family said...

I love Cynthia Rylant's story When I Was Young in the Mountains about her own experiences growing up with her grandparents.
As a fellow teacher, I know that many of my students are actually being raised by their grandparents and I think it's very important to honor them.

Brimful Curiosities said...

My grandparents had copies of some of the Boxcar children books in their home. I remember reading some of them with my grandma.

Another gorgeous grandmother/grandchild book we've read is Grandmother, have the Angels Come by Denise Vega. It's about aging and contains beautiful illustrations.

KR said...

I have my Grandmother's set of Bobbsey Twin books. I remember her reading them to me and that's waht made me love reading. I HAD to learn to read so I could read them by myself! Hubby still buys me old ones that I am missing.


Katrina said...

on a side note I am graduating from library school in 1 semester and so far it has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me

the librarian in my elementary school was over 65 and she is the reason I wanted to become a librarian...she always read to us and made the books come a live

ykatrina ath otmail dot com

Sarah @ said...

My grandparents weren't really readers, but they somehow managed to introduce my mother to Nancy Drew when we were young. I can remember spending so much time snuggled up in my mom's lap reading through chapter after chapter of those books =) All thanks to Gramma!

(The mention of the Boxcar Children above reminded me!)

Ayesha said...

My grandmother was my best friend and the one who showed me the beauty of books. I love books because of her.

Misa said...

I love the books you choose to highlight! Very diverse. Fun blog!

Unknown said...

Thrilled to have found your blog. You have highlighted my favorite illustrator and sometimes author - Yuri Morales. I have been a children's book author of over thirty years. As a grandmother particularly like the reviews above. Will connect your blog to my Facebook page. Thank you.

serenDIPity said...

Gosh! I just teared up reading the memories people have shared about reading with their grandparents! :) What a beautiful thing to share. Age is indeed something to celebrate! Thank you for the kind dedication, Esme!

learningquranonline said...

mashallah a beautiful article and nice way of explaining it also


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