Following on from Charlotte’s post the other day, I thought I would put together a list of a few of the books my family loves, which focus on that special bond between grandchildren and their grandparents.
I have already talked about the Katie Morag books, in which both her grandmothers are central. I wish we’d known about Nigel Gray’s A Balloon for Grandad when we lived abroad; as it is, we discovered it recently in our local library. Illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators, Jane Ray, it deals in such an uplifting way with the separation which is sometimes inevitable when generations live a long way from each other. Then there are Ana Baca and Anthony Accardo’s Benito books – look out for a review of their latest bilingual title Benito’s Sopaipillas/ Las Sopaipillas de Benito in next week’s update of PaperTigers (I’ll add the link to this post when it’s available… here it is!).
We also love Raymond Briggs’ typically quirky story The Puddleman. You have to be an indulgent grandfather to allow your grandson to lead you around by a dog-lead attached to your wrist and call you “Collar” – but the hint at the end, where Briggs thanks “Miles” for “the naming of puddles, Collar” etc. would suggest that he had real-life, grandson inspiration for the story! It’s a loving, imaginative tale that also provides a particularly special read-aloud experience. Since it is a cartoon strip, you can’t just read it as a narrative; you have to share the interpretation of the pictures alongside the reading of the dialogue and build it up together.
Sometimes we need books to help us talk about the illness or death of a beloved grandparent. My boys love Ian Whybrow and Adrian Reynolds’ Harry books and Harry and the Robots is an engaging story about how wee Harry finds a way to offer some practical help to make his grandmother get better so she can home from hospital.
In Little Bear’s Grandad, again by Nigel Gray, this time illustrated by Vanessa Cabban, Grandad doesn’t come home from the hospital… It’s hard to read without getting a lump in your throat but its warmth and tenderness make it an ideal way towards helping young children express their own grief at the loss of a grandparent.
For a more exhaustive selection of books for children about the death of a loved one, take a look at healthyBooks’ list. I would just like to finish with one more. The Frog Ballet by Amanda McCardie and Caroline Crossland is an exquisitely told story in which “the oldest frog” falls asleep never to wake up. All his frog family has gathered around him, including the littlest frog, who is trying so hard to understand: “the little speckledy frog knew he would want to cry quite soon, but he couldn’t cry yet.” We were given The Frog Ballet as a casual gift when my older son was two and I read it to him straight off without realising what it was about. Fortunately, it is a gem and deals very sensitively with its subject matter. Its non-human context gives it a universal appeal and it deserves to become a classic. Unfortunately, it is now out of print: but it is worth hunting it out second–hand…