- Grandmother’s Visit Posted in: Ages 3 to 7, Arts, Children's Books
By Betty Quan, with full-color illustrations by Carmen Mok — Groundwood 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.
- Goodnight Whispers Posted in: Ages 3 to 7, Children's Books
By Michael Leannah, illustrated by Dani Torrent – Familius, 2018
What we say to the very young can be life-changing, and the bonds we make, eternal. In Goodnight Whispers, a loving daddy whispers affirmations to his daughter as she falls asleep every night, reinforcing her best attributes. He tells her, “You are the most wonderful girl in the world.” The ritual cements her self-image and carries her through the challenges of her teenage years and beyond. The reader sees the girl become a woman, and the father, a man in later life. As an adult, the girl, now a mother, institutes this bedtime practice with her own child, and, yes, her aging father: “You are the most wonderful man in the world.” This sweet picture book is a treasure for anyone who would like to introduce positive images of aging to the very young.
- Walking in the City with Jane: A Story of Jane Jacobs Posted in: Ages 3 to 7, Arts, Children's Books
By Susan Hughes, illustrated by Valérie Boivin – Kids Can Press, 2018
Positive images of aging can be hard to find, especially in children’s literature, and when a children’s book features an older woman as the heroine and role model on the jacket, it catches our eye. To our delight, the inspiring text inside is just as bold and engaging. As an author and activist, Jane Jacobs made a notable impact on urban studies and sociology. This charming biography follows her from her restless childhood to her lifelong battle to get people to appreciate cities as ecosystems that support people rather than skyscrapers and cars. Jane was a child of integrity—she was sent home from school for refusing to make a promise to a teacher that she couldn’t keep. That sense of right took her into community activism to keep urban neighborhoods operating “like sidewalk ballets” where people coexist with nature and their neighbors. Jane doesn’t shy away from a powerful city planner (Robert Moses) and organizes like-minded New Yorkers in, not a ribbon-cutting, but a ribbon-tying ceremony to close Central Park to traffic. If you have a budding activist in your life, don’t miss this information-rich, beautifully told, picture-book story.
- Quiet Posted in: Ages 3 to 7, Children's Books
By Tomie dePaola – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018
Tomie dePaola—the Caldecott and Newbery Medal-winning author/illustrator of the Strega Nona books (and so many more)—shares a basic yet powerful message in his latest picture book. A grandfather, white-haired and upright, explores the park with his two grandchildren. Everything is moving, from the birds to the leaves to the children themselves. Grandfather suggests the trio sit quietly on a bench. As they do, they observe the subtle details of the animals and plants around them. Once they are still, the children notice that their world seems even more alive because they are taking the time to see and hear. With simple sentences and the muted colors of nature, the words and illustrations echo the theme: quiet is special. The sweetness of the message is, in turn, reflected by the sweetness in the respectful relationships between the generations and between the humans and the environment. A welcome reminder of the importance of a moment of calm in a busy world.
- A Gift from Abuela Posted in: Ages 3 to 7, Arts, Children's Books
By Cecilia Ruiz — Candlewick Press, 2018
The day Niña is born is one of the happiest of Abuela’s life. She adores having a granddaughter. As Niña grows, the pair spends much time together, making cutout paper banners called papel picado and eating pan dulce in the park. Abuela decides she would like to give Niña a very special gift, so she begins to save a few pesos a week in a jar on top of the refrigerator. But times get hard in Mexico. Some weeks, Abuela can barely afford food, let alone savings. She has to work more, so she has less time for an older Niña, who wants to spend her free time with her friends anyway.
One day, Niña realizes how long it has been since she has seen Abuela, so she goes to her house. Abuela is out, and Niña decides to surprise her by tidying up. She discovers the jar of pesos, now worthless because Mexican currency has changed. When Abuela returns to a clean kitchen, she and Niña decide to do something they always loved: they make papel picado from the old pesos and enjoy their time together.
This intergenerational tale is a reminder that togetherness is the best gift and that we can still enjoy the simple things, even as time changes both us and the world around us.
- The Orphan Boy Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
This Maasai tale from Africa is about a magical secret that will be ruined if found out—and the consuming curiosity to discover it anyway. An old man knows the stars so well that he notices when one is missing. That same night, a young boy appears before him, saying he’s an orphan named Kileken who has traveled very far, searching for a home. The childless old man is delighted to adopt him. Read more…
- The Old Man and His Door Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
This entertaining story is based on a Mexican song claiming that, to an old man, there’s no difference between la puerta (the door) and el puerco (the pig). This plump, white-haired man in his farmer’s overalls is a fine gardener who doesn’t listen carefully enough to his wife. (One can see why not; she’s rather bossy.) When she leaves for a neighbor’s barbecue, she tells him not to be late and to bring the pig. However, he’s in the middle of washing the dog, so she leaves first. Later he’s puzzled by why she wants him to bring a door, but he unscrews the front door and brings it anyway. The grinning pig watches him leave and looks happy not to be on the menu. Read more…
- Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Two young, African American sisters love to visit their great-great-aunt Flossie and her hundreds of hats. Each hat holds a vivid Baltimore memory—the 1904 fire, the parade at the end of World War I—and the girls are fascinated as Aunt Flossie tells the stories. Read more…
- Gus and Grandpa series Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
This endearing large-print series for beginning readers celebrates the special relationship between Gus and his grandfather. In the first book, Gus turns 7 and Grandpa turns 70. Grandpa’s thick white hair and mustache are snowy white, and he wears glasses. He loves listening to opera, and he has a lively dog. He’s good with his hands and can make wooden mailboxes and delicious Christmas cookies. Grandpa has a shed full of fascinating old junk, which Gus loves, but his parents don’t. Read more…
- Grandpa Green Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
In his second Caldecott Honor book, Smith tells an intergenerational tale of a young boy traveling through the garden that is his great-grandfather’s life. The boy winds through the topiaries, picking up forgetful Grandpa Green’s dropped tools, and his memories, too. The simplicity of the child’s understanding of Grandpa Green’s multilayered life is deepened by poignant illustrations, simultaneously whimsical and realistic in black, white and many shades of green.
Topiary after topiary represents Grandpa Green’s journey from his farmboy days and schoolyard crushes to World War I and meeting his future wife in a Paris café, to the blooming of both their family and his life as a gardener. The camaraderie between young boy and old man permeates the book. The boy knows where he fits in his family and is at ease as Grandpa’s helper. The great-grandfather accepts the boy’s help with love and his own memory lapses with grace. In the end, their journeys merge as the boy creates his own topiary, his own place, in their garden of family history.
Best-selling author of titles including The Stinky Cheese Man (Caldecott Honor book with Jon Scieszka, 1992), John, Paul, George & Ben (2006) and Madam President (2008), Smith has illustrated works for other renowned children’s book writers, such as Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss and Judith Viorst. With Grandpa Green, he has created a book that resonates with all ages. For children, this is a calming tale of love. For adults, it’s a bittersweet conjurer of memory. From either perspective, this quietly brilliant book will spark conversation between generations about the roots and blossoming of their own family’s journey.
- Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Young Darcy doesn’t like her new baby brother, especially the way he monopolizes her parents’ time and attention. She confides in several adults, but nobody takes her seriously—until Gran comes to visit and matter-of-factly tells Darcy that she has never liked babies either. Read more…
- The Raft Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Nicky, who looks about 8 or 9, thinks he will be bored and lonely when he must spend the summer alone with his grandmother in her rustic cottage in the woods. He gradually changes his mind, though, when she introduces him to rafting on the river and appreciating the wildlife that seems mysteriously attracted to the raft. Read more…
- Tsunami! Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
An old Japanese farmer from long ago is the wealthiest man in his seaside village because he has the largest rice fields. His thatched cottage is high up the mountainside, above the rest of the village. Yet he doesn’t flaunt his wealth. The 400 other villagers respect him and have nicknamed him Ojiisan (Japanese for grandfather); they often seek his advice. Read more…
- The Old Woman and the Wave Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
An old woman has lived all her life in a cottage with a huge wave curled over it. Her roof is covered with a cluster of umbrellas to stop the drips. The wave actually loves the old woman, but she only bellows at it, scolding it for clumsiness when it splatters her or tosses fish to her. A passing traveler suggests that the wave could carry someone a long distance, but the old woman ignores this until her dog swims to the top of the wave. When she rows her little boat up to rescue the dog, she realizes how foolish she has been and learns to ride the wave instead of resenting it. Read more…
- The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
In this retelling of a Cherokee creation story, an old couple discovers that someone has stolen cornmeal from the storage basket behind their house. Cornmeal keeps the people from starving during the winter, so this is not a trivial loss. The next night, their young grandson spies to catch the thief and is astonished to see a huge, eerily glowing dog push aside the lid with its nose, eat more cornmeal and dash away. Read more…
- Sea Swan Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Elzibah Swan is a very proper widow who has lived in the same Boston house all her life, with a cook and a chauffeur. She has a well-established routine: library, book club, garden club, symphony. Then, shortly after a visit from her Chicago grandchildren, she discovers a spirit of independence on her 75th birthday. Read more…
- The Old Woman Who Named Things Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Now that all her friends have died, an old woman likes to name only those things that she knows will outlive her, such as her house, her car and her big red chair. However, she doesn’t name the stray dog that she feeds at her gate every day, until he doesn’t show up, and she realizes how much she misses him. She goes to find him, names him and brings him home for keeps. Read more…
- The Chicken Salad Club Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
Third-grader Nathaniel has a great-grandfather, Greatpaw, who is a century old. Greatpaw enjoys making chicken salad sandwiches and telling exciting stories about his past, which Nathaniel loves to hear. When Greatpaw becomes discouraged because he can’t find other storytellers his age with whom to swap stories, Nathaniel helps him find one—a 99-year-old woman named Sadie with an equally adventurous past—and the pair entertain not only each other but also Nathaniel and the rest of the neighborhood children. Read more…
- The Hello, Goodbye Window Posted in: Ages 3 to 7
A preschool-age girl explains that she has named her grandparents’ cheery kitchen window the Hello, Goodbye Window because it’s where everyone says hello and goodbye. The window is where she first waves or knocks hello when she arrives. It’s where she, Nanna and Poppy gaze at the stars, assess the morning’s weather and first notice any visitors, from the pizza delivery person to (hypothetically) the queen of England. (Nanna says it’s a magic window, so you never know!) When her parents return to take the girl home, she’s glad to see them but also sad to say goodbye to Nanna and Poppy. The girl and her parents all stop outside the window to blow goodbye kisses. Read more…