A granddaughter’s tribute to her beloved grandfather, My Grandfather, Aajoba invites young readers to share in the very special bond portrayed, and perhaps to refer it to their own lives. The book’s author Taruja Parande has created a portrait of her grandfather through a series of anecdotes set off by illustrations that are an effective and attractive blend of photographic collage and original artwork.
Each double-page spread presents a different chapter in Parande and Aajoba’s relationship, with extra, playful asides, such as inviting readers to “flick a bunch of these pages quickly to hear the flapping of pigeons’ wings”. The book begins with pages from both an old and a more recent photograph album. The overlaid narrative conveys a contrasting description of Aajoba as a “tough” young man (“everyone was afraid of him. He was afraid of nobody.”) and as a “lovable” old man (“He was amused by everything I did […] I was never afraid of him”). From then on, the visual and verbal narratives both revolve around the grandfather and his grandchild – from Aajoba’s recipe for buttered toast, illustrated photographically step by step; through activities such as attempting to wash the cat or evading homework; to stamp albums and lists. A chapter is also dedicated to “the secret” – how Aajoba and Aaji met. Here the tone of secrecy is perfect for young readers and it is easy to imagine delighted, conspiratorial giggles at this point: after all, isn’t this just the kind of family story children love to hear?
Although the perspective is clearly that of an adult looking back and remembering, the matter-of-fact tone never drifts into nostalgia. The narrative is past tense so most young readers will know, even if it’s subconsciously, that Aajoba is no longer alive. In fact, this would be a special book to read with children coping with the loss of a grandparent. And it would also come as no surprise to find that after reading My Grandfather, Aajoba young readers set about creating their own grandparent storybooks: for not only does this delightful book draw readers into the solid reality of the relationship portrayed, but it also provides space for those readers’ own imaginations to come into play.