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Grandparents: The Generation Gap Gift

A recommended reading list by the author of When I Visited Grandma.

Book Cover When I Visited Grandma

Children’s books about exploring relationships with family members are essential. Home is really where life and learning truly begin. Grandparents enable that learning by simply being themselves. What we call as a "gap" in generation can be a gift. All we need to do is slow down a little and pay attention. One good way to do that is by reading.

Here are a few books that shine a different light on this special relationship and help us evolve as human beings.


Book Cover 100 Chapatis

100 Chapatis, written by Derek Mascarenhas, illustrated by Shantala Robinson

As evident from the opening, "When will baby come?," little Simon awaits a younger sibling but holds feelings of anxiety, apprehension, and an eager expectation. When he asks, "How long for the baby to arrive?" Grandpa says "100 chapatis," which is an unusual but effective and relatable response.

Some children respond well to qualitative or measured (I love you to the moon and back) answers as opposed to qualitative (I love you so much) ones.

Simon gets on-board with the idea of making chapatis because it sounds like fun and there is certainty of reward by the end of the activity. It is also legacy. While waiting for Simon to be born, his Grandparents also passed time rolling out chapatis (How healthy and resourceful!)

Simon is exposed to family tradition while having fun playing with the texture of dough. He is also introduced to some basic math. Grandpa is meticulous enough to arrange for ten plates to hold ten chapatis each! (Seems more than enough to feed all the family members and more!)

The industry of this labour is illustrated in a gently layered and appealing style.

Rolling out chapati into a perfect circle is no easy feat and takes practice. Simon builds his skill while slowly building his base for the new relationship. He wonders if baby will eat chapati, then goes on to assume the responsibility of being willing to show the finished product to his sibling. This steady growth of the main character through story is endearing.


Book Cover On the Trapline

On the Trapline, written by David Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett

A poignant story of deep exploration and connection that a grandpa and grandson have with the land, but also with one another.

The book opens with an illustration of an airplane flying north, where Grandpa once lived off the land. The narration is well balanced with quiet moments of reflection and lots of talks about life on the trapline. They almost re-live it as they fish in the lake, pick berries to eat and travel on forest paths. Grandpa openly talks about what it was like to go to school (where you could only speak in English) after living on the trapline. “I learned in both places”, he says. “Just learned different things”, which is a deeply meaningful line.

As mentioned in the author’s note, “Reconciliation is more than healing from trauma. It is reconnecting with significant moments in relationships be it with the land or an ancestor.”


Book Cover The Bird Feeder

The Bird Feeder, written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Dorothy Leung

The title object is of significant relevance in this elegant exploration of death. It opens with news of Grandma’s sickness. This means Grandma will stay with the narrator and the child gets the important job of filling up her bird feeder. The two grow their relationship as they draw pictures together or watch beautiful birds, until a day comes when Grandma must move into a hospice. The child’s feeling of despair is well expressed in the disinterest in the feeder, but it is revived by a hospice visit. Grandma and grandchild nurture their interest again during these visits. And then comes the inevitable. Grandma passes away. Peacefully. But the love for birds lives on. The child brings home their own bird feeder. The gentle acceptance of death seems lasting.


Book Cover The Not So Faraway ADventure

The Not-So-Faraway Adventure, written by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Irene Luxbacher.

This is a simple but significant story about a girl and her grandpa’s day of adventure not too far from home, but the story feels close to home for me. As a child I was always intrigued and inspired by my grandfather’s profession as a journalist. Theo wishes to be like her poppa who is an explorer. She treasures the collectibles of his younger days and dreams of living a life like his. She comes up with a plan to celebrate his birthday by spending an adventurous day at the beach. It is heart-warming to read how she plans out an entire day (maps et al), just to grandpa’s liking. The blues of the sky washing into the blues of the water seems straight out of one of Grandpa’s postcards. From collecting stones on bare feet to slurping soup loudly, this is an experience in its natural elements. The book ends with a well-planned surprise by the entire family. How sweet!


Book Cover Grandmother School

Grandmother School, written by Rina Singh, illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Based on a true tale of grit and determination, Grandmother School at first glance is the story of a grandmother’s journey of learning but really about women drawing from their own strength to make changes for themselves and for the world at large. Narrated in the first-person voice of the unnamed grandchild, the author captures the spirit and spunk of the main character very well. In a place and time in society where senior women were not particularly encouraged to go to "school," Grandma not only finds the means, but also finds her people!

Be it in memorizing rhymes in sleep or tactfully seeking help from her loving grandchild, Grandma’s gumption is incredible. And the young cheerleader’s support charming! They share a warm and loving relationship. Even the stories that Grandma shares at bedtime with her grandchildren are noteworthy. The book ends with Grandma’s once-grand aspiration of reading her grandchild oral stories from an actual book.


Book Cover the Care and Keeping of Grandmas

The Care and Keeping of Grandmas, written by Jennifer Mooksang, illustrated by YongLingKang

This is a story about a Grandma’s visit and her granddaughter’s earnest attempts to make a smooth transition. Infused with sweetness, unique charm and humor this book will engage the interest of adults and young readers alike. It is also an easy read. Short simple sentences span an entire spread. "I kept her company whenever she needed some quiet time" is a classic. The granddaughter’s spirit is eager, and her grandma’s quiet accommodation endearing. Overall, a very delightful read!


Book Cover Ojiichan's Gift

Ojiichan’s Gift, written by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Genevieve Simms

A relatable story of a growing relationship between a grandpa and granddaughter. Also, a gentle exposure to the changes that come along with age. It feels fulfilling to see little Mayumi grow from a toddler to a near teen. She makes the long-distance plane trip every summer to her very own garden that was built by her Grandpa when she was born. The two tend to this shared space in an almost sacred way. Many gardening lessons are learnt along the way, and the rewards are reaped in "happy silence." The child reminisces about these golden moments as she holds onto the objects (pinecones, leaves, smooth stones) she brings back home. The summer when Grandpa is restricted in his movements, granddaughter digs up her strength to revive his wilting garden once again. The concept and practice of the garden is a true gift.


BooK Cover Harry and Walter

Harry and Walter, written by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Qin Leng

This is story of a remarkable, almost one-of-a-kind friendship between a four-year-old boy and his ninety-two-year-old next-door neighbour. The shared energy between the two friends is incredible. Be it driving their tractors around the lawn, or raking leaves (or jumping on them), or eating tomatoes with juices dribbling down, they have so much fun together. It makes the reader yearn for board games, puzzles, and paper planes—a predominant pasttime of the duo. When Harry must move to another home, the senior gently explains the concept of "change." Harry experiences loss and longing, but hope is renewed when Walter waltzes into a retirement home nearby. The two friends treasure the renewed friendship albeit in different ways.

Although there is no family connection, this story is a strong example of how nurturing relationships can sometimes be experienced with oddest of friends.


Book Cover Granny Left Me a Rocketship

Granny Left Me a Rocketship, written by Heather Smith, illustrated by Ashley Barron

The book starts at the heart of the story—the death of Grandma.

While there may not be whole-hearted acceptance in the opening line, there is some acknowledgement of the good life lived, which seems obvious from an interesting array of grandma's knickknacks, like the locket, tuba, microscope, etc. But her real living is recollected through the mind’s eye of the grandchild. Elaborate illustrations that wrap around minimal text (tent, beach umbrella, butterfly net, flagpole, flying broomstick and of course the titular Rocketship) vividly evoke fond memories and gently lead to re-assuring acceptance. The conclusion leaves the reader with a sense of pleasant continuity.


Book Cover Grandfather's Reminder

Grandfather’s Reminder, written by Alberta-Rose Bear and Kathleen O’Reilly, illustrated by Lindsey Bear

Told in Plains-Cree, Saulteaux, and English, this is a humbling story about respect, gratitude, and contentment. The grandfather imparts these important values through an oral-storytelling narration of his experience picking chokecherries with his own grandmother. When his grandson asks about the scar on his arm, Grandfather goes back in time, walking with his extended family through a beautiful prairie landscape picking cherries. In his rush to reach the "best" berries on the "highest" bush, Grandpa hurts not only himself, but also breaks a berry-heavy branch. His grandma explains that the earth always provides us with what we need. As he (present day Grandpa) explains, he learned to “be happy with who I am and to always care for and respect Mother Earth,” Grandmother and grandson deliberately return the berries from that broken branch back to the earth. This populates chokecherry bushes for years to come, and both narrator and reader reap the benefits of this noble teaching.

This book should belong in all classrooms across our country.


Book Cover When I Visited Grandma

Learn more about about When I Visited Grandma:

Maya is excited to be in India visiting Grandma, but their time together isn’t quite what she expected. A companion book to When I Found Grandma.

It’s Maya’s first morning in India, but Grandma is already rushing her — it’s market day and they must make the most of Maya’s visit. When Maya comes out of her room wearing her favorite ripped jeans, Grandma wants to sew them! Maya finds the market too hot, too loud, and it’s full of Grandma’s nosy neighbors. Even back at home, Grandma’s friends keep dropping by. Maya just longs to be left alone. But the next morning the house is unusually quiet. Dad explains that Grandma has had to go to the hospital. And suddenly Maya begins to see things differently.

Once again Saumiya Balasubramaniam explores the challenges of cross-cultural and intergenerational relationships in this sweet story with vivid illustrations by Kavita Ramchandran.

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