Children’s Book Reviews: Of Grannies and Grandads

By Cyrisse Jaffee

April weather may be unpredictable, but the bond between grandparents and children is not. Here are some new books that celebrate that special relationship.

Karen Hesse, Granny and Bean. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. Candlewick Press, 2022.

Lane Smith, A Gift for Nana. Random House, 2022.

Sam Usher, Lost. Templar books, 2021.

Granny and Bean is a lovely book that perfectly but subtly captures not only the special bond between a child and their granny, but also of a moment in time and place. It’s a gray, misty day by the sea. The waves are wild, and the wind blows off their hats, but Granny and Bean are undeterred. Together they scramble across the beach, look for shells, have a snack, and play — despite the weather. Notably, they don’t “grumble,” but are fully immersed in their environment, appreciating not just what they are doing, but each other. The narrative, by an award-winning author of books for children and young adults, is simple yet poetic, and the evocative illustrations add depth and appeal. “Their laughter rose; full of joy, it spilled ‘cross sand…” the author writes, and yours will too, as you read this book, whether it’s on a bright spring morning or a lazy, cozy afternoon indoors.

It’s a different kind of “gray and cold and miserable” day in Lost by Sam Usher. This time, a young boy wakes up wanting to do nothing, but his granddad insists on running some errands anyway. After the eyeglasses store, the library, and the hardware store, they are ready to build something — a sled. By the time it’s finished, the rain has turned to snow, but off they go. When they see a street sign for a lost dog, they embark on a mission to find her. Despite blizzard conditions, they find her (along with a pack of friendly wolves and a monkey!) and then return home to cheerily eat the reward (cake). Combining humor and a smidge of fantasy with energetic and charming illustrations, this latest in a series of seasonal books about the daring intergenerational duo is just the sort of quirky adventure that kids will want to go on.

Another grandmother is the subject of Lane Smith’s A Gift for Nana, as is the tender love she shares with her grandson. Rabbit sets off on a quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana, even though it’s not her birthday or even a holiday. Rabbit’s journey is long and a little perilous. The moon offers him a smile, a fish offers him a cup of water, a volcano offers him “a temper,” and a strange beast made of sticks (a “stickler”) offers him … a stick. But Rabbit perseveres until he finds just the right thing. Or is it? Children will enjoy the slight twist at the end and grandparents will smile with them. Smith’s illustrations are, as usual, fun, imaginative, and stylish. Another treat from this award-winning author/illustrator.

Cyrisse Jaffee is a former children’s and YA librarian, a children’s book editor and book reviewer, and a creator of educational materials for WGBH. She holds a master’s degree in Library Science from Simmons College and lives in Newton, MA.

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