I Know Grandpa

Paula M. Chaiken; Kris­ten M. Leonard, illus.
  • Review
By – July 13, 2016

A rela­tion­ship between a grand­par­ent and grand­child is spe­cial and rare; no oth­er bond in life is quite the same. But what hap­pens when a grand­par­ent dies before a child has had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence this extra­or­di­nar­i­ly lov­ing con­nec­tion? Some chil­dren acute­ly feel the loss, the emp­ty space in life where that grand­par­ent should have been. This sen­si­tive­ly writ­ten pic­ture book, illus­trat­ed in gen­tle col­or, shows how such a gap can be bridged through the shar­ing of sto­ries and mem­o­ries and through the use of pic­tures and memen­tos if it is done with love.

David tells his Bub­bie that he is very sad that his grand­fa­ther has died before he was born and Bub­bie, although her­self emo­tion­al about it, is a very smart woman and she knows just what to do. She knows that she can help David accept this loss and she also under­stands that chil­dren learn most effec­tive­ly when all their sens­es are engaged. Bub­bie goes into action. She cooks Grand­pa’s favorite foods for David so he can see, taste and smell them and he learns some­thing about his grand­fa­ther from this meal. Then she takes Grand­pa’s favorite book off the shelf so David can see it, feel it, and look for­ward to read­ing it and he finds that he now knows more about Grand­pa. She shows him pic­tures which spark sto­ries filled with mem­o­ries and she points out how the peo­ple in the pic­tures have changed and how the neigh­bor­hood has, too, so that David under­stands that change can be grad­ual but nat­ur­al. Bub­bie tell David some of Grand­pa’s favorite jokes and David laughs, prov­ing to him that con­ver­sa­tions about peo­ple who have died can include laugh­ter as well as tears. Final­ly, Bub­bie pulls out a warm, col­or­ful quilt made from lots of things that Grand­pa used dur­ing his long, event­ful life and while she and David snug­gle under the quilt, she reminds David that he car­ries on his grand­fa­ther’s name. More fam­i­ly mem­bers arrive and sur­round Grand­ma and David with warmth and love. Grand­pa may not be in the room with them, but, in some ways, it seems that he is, and David no longer feels that he does­n’t know his grandfather.

This is a won­der­ful book for fam­i­lies, teach­ers and a vari­ety of oth­er pro­fes­sion­als to use with chil­dren mourn­ing the loss of a fam­i­ly mem­ber. It shows a healthy, whole­some approach to loss and mov­ing for­ward and is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 4 – 8.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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