Even though it first was published over 15 years ago, I chose today’s Perfect Picture Book because I think it still is timely, especially as so many Puerto Ricans escape the post-hurricane Maria devastation of their beloved island home.
Title: Grandma’s Records
Written & Illustrated By: Eric Velasquez
Publisher/date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/2004 (originally published, Walker & Company, 2001)
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes/Topics: Puerto Rico; intergenerational; music
Every year, right after the last day of school, I’d pack a suitcase with my cool sketchbook. Then my dog, Daisy, and I were off to Grandma’s apartment in El Barrio. Because my parents worked, Grandma’s apartment was my summer home.
Brief Synopsis: The young narrator and his grandmother share a love of Latino music and attend a special concert together.
Links to Resources:
- A Teacher’s Guide provides several ideas, including oral history and memoir-writing projects;
- The narrator’s Grandma hailed from Puerto Rico. Find out more about this US territory;
- Back matter includes the lyrics to Grandma’s special song, “In My Old San Juan” (En mi Viejo San Juan) by Noel Estrada (1918-1979) in English and Spanish, and a note about the musicians who appear in the story. Listen to En mi Viejo San Juan in a video that features photographs from the 1920s;
- Describe a visit or an experience you shared with a grandparent or elderly family member or friend. How did you feel about the visit or experience? How do you think s/he felt?
Why I Like this Book:
Grandma’s Records is a feel-good exploration of the ties that bind generations and of Puerto Rican music and culture. I love the details that Velasquez included, especially that Grandma “even made me get a haircut” before attending a show. I think this detail will help kids understand the importance that Grandma, and the narrator, placed on the concert.
Velasquez is an illustrator-author whose realistic paintings add rich details to the story. I especially like that he pictured Grandma in pink house shoes, something adults of a certain age may remember their own mothers or grandmothers wearing.
A Note about Craft:
First published in 2001, Grandma’s Records has a much higher word count than most picture books published today. The story still resonates, though, and I think it would make a wonderful read-aloud to older elementary students. I also think it would be an interesting exercise for picture book writers to determine what they would cut to align better with today’s word count norms.
Velasquez wrote Grandma’s Records, an autobiographical tribute to his Puerto Rican grandmother, utilizing first-person point of view. I think this works well for this reflective, personal story and, as mentioned under “Links to Resources” above, could be a great mentor text for classroom memoir writing exercises.
Visit Eric Velasquez’ website to see more of his books and illustrations.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!