Children’s Book Roundup: September 2019
- By Kari Kelly
- September 16, 2019
New stories featuring the grands.
Not much is sweeter than the relationship between child and grandparent. But, sometimes, it seems the only stories for children that include elder relatives focus on declining abilities and fading memories, where grandparents are relegated to a flat character or simple plot device in order to interpret the grieving process.
But a new storyline is trending this fall — one that includes the intricacies of multigenerational relationships between grands and their littles and goes beyond the “death and dying” section.
At a time when more and more grandparents are taking on childcare responsibilities, it is refreshing to see books that celebrate the upside of the grandparent-grandchild bond. Recommended for ages 3 through 8, these five recently released children’s books honor the special bond between kids and their eldest heroes:
Our Favorite Day
By Joowon Oh
One of my very favorite books this season, Our Favorite Day tells the story of elderly Papa going about his daily routine leading up to Thursday, his favorite day of the week.
Excitement builds as details such as a polished vase and an extra order of dumplings are sprinkled in, hinting at what Papa is anticipating. Readers will be delighted when it is revealed that he has been thoughtfully preparing for the arrival of his granddaughter, who is equally eager to spend some quality time with her grandfather.
The simplicity of author-illustrator Joowon Oh’s text and sweet watercolor, gouache, and cut-paper collages give a handcrafted feel to this truly charming celebration of the bond between grandparent and grandchild. With ample opportunity for kids to test out their prediction skills, this heartwarming book is sure to become a favorite read-aloud for young readers.
My Grandma and Me
By Mina Javaherbin and Lindsey Yankey
Love is universal. The intricate mixed-media illustrations of My Grandma and Me will immediately catch the eye of readers and pull them into the stunning world of Mina Javaherbin’s affectionate ode to her personal heroine, her own grandmother.
Delightful characteristics of daily life in Iran — like retrieving bread from the delivery boy using baskets dangling on long ropes out a third-story window — abut the loving and devout acts of faith carried out by this Muslim family. Running parallel to the tender narrative of familial bond is a broader story of human connection illustrated by the nurturing community child and grandmother create with their Christian neighbors.
The inclusive message of love shines throughout without becoming saccharine or clichéd and makes for a unique story that can be of value in any home.
Around the Table That Grandad Built
By Melanie Heuiser Hill and Jaime Kim
Around the Table That Grandad Built is an enjoyable, cumulative story in the tradition of “This Is the House That Jack Built,” told from a child’s perspective.
As the story builds, the narrator reflects upon not just the physical objects being laid out for a shared meal, but also the lineage that built the family over generations. The cheerful acrylic paint and crayon illustrations give the book a child-like feel and are large and bright enough to be seen by a crowd during read-alouds.
Though the rhythm doesn’t stop, the mounting story breaks from the traditional repetitive verse two-thirds of the way through when a diverse array of family members begins adding their own unique contributions to the table.
This fun homage to the modern family will make an exciting addition to libraries and schools and will appeal to families preparing for holiday gatherings. It is the perfect companion book to The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins and Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora.
Looking for Yesterday
By Alison Jay
Interspersed with scientific trivia, this philosophical exploration of “space, time, and the pursuit of happiness” is launched when a child asks himself how to get back to yesterday. Coming up empty-handed, he turns to trusted Granddad, who explains that reliving our best days may not be physically possible, but we can both appreciate the good times past and look forward to times to come.
With her signature airy and whimsical illustrations, Alison Jay shows the beauty of our most beloved memories, as well as the brightness of the future. Stylistic changes in typeset and oil painting technique vividly contrast the past with the present, although some of the textual flourishes may confuse beginning readers.
The perfect story for generations to enjoy together, Looking for Yesterday is a gratifying reminder to stay in the present. [Play-starved preschoolers? Check out this party place for toddlers in Peoria!]
Grandpa’s Top Threes
By Wendy Meddour and Daniel Egneus
From the talented duo who brought us Lubna and Pebble comes another touching story that approaches a delicate topic with the utmost care and artistry. While Grandpa’s Top Threes does not avoid grief entirely, it is unique in that it tells the story of a child who is trying to connect with his withdrawn, mourning grandfather.
Much like other recent notable titles concerning emotional intelligence, like The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld and When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland, Meddour and Egneus’ collaborations deal with a specific situation but can be universally applied to how a child sees the world and finds a way to cope with overwhelming feelings.
Not only focusing on patience and empathy, this title most importantly demonstrates a helpful psychological tool for connecting with others and will make a noteworthy addition to anyone’s library for young readers.
Kari Kelly is first and foremost a lover of children’s literature and children’s-book buyer at Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick, Maryland. Over the last 15 years, she has advocated for children, libraries, books, and the community. She thinks there is no greater joy than settling down for quiet reading time with her husband and daughter in their century-old home, which is bursting at the seams with books.