Grandmother’s Visit

By Betty Quan, with full-color illustrations by Carmen MokGroundwood Books, 2018

This sweetly sad story is about the relationship between a girl and her grandmother, who comes to live with the family. She shows the girl how to properly measure rice and tells tales of her childhood in China. They share a love for the pickled plums that the old woman always has in her pocket. Every day, they say goodbye when Grandmother leaves the girl at school, and every day they say hello at dismissal. Until the day the girl’s father picks her up instead. Now Grandmother stays in her room all the time and Mother and Father worry in whispers. And then Grandmother is gone. But the girl and her family follow a Chinese tradition of keeping the outside lights on, to invite the deceased loved one’s spirit to return for one last goodbye. The girl realizes she can keep her memories, plus the ones Grandmother shared of her own experiences.

The soft illustrations set just the right mood, with muted hues and pops of vibrant oranges and reds. This is a good book to share with children who may need to process the loss of a grandparent, but it’s not limited to that audience. This intergenerational tale has a much broader appeal.