Tis the season of giving, so I think a picture book about a gift is a Perfect Picture Book!
Title: Ojiichan’s Gift
Written By: Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated By: Genevieve Simms
Publisher/Date: Kids Can Press/2019
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: Japan, gardening, intergenerational, adapting to changes
When Mayumi van Horton was born, her grandfather built her a garden.
It sat behind a tidy brown house nearly halfway around the world, and it was unlike any other garden she knew.
Mayumi’s grandfather built her a garden made of stones behind his home in Japan. But when age and health made it difficult to remain in the home, Mayumi had to figure out a way to take the garden along.
Links to Resources:
- Learn about, and make, your own Japanese garden;
- Do you have an activity that you enjoy doing with a grandparent or other elderly relative or family friend? Learn a favorite recipe or a special craft from that person;
- Check out the Teaching Guide for more ideas.
Why I Like this Book:
In this gentle, intergenerational picture book, young Mayumi tends her garden each summer with her grandfather, Ojiichan, who lives in Japan. I love how the garden acts as a means to bond two family members separated by oceans for much of the year. I also love how this activity helps Mayumi learn more about her Japanese heritage. And I especially love that Ojiichan gifts the garden to Mayumi at the outset, which enables her to gift something special to him.
But during one visit, Mayumi and her parents realize that Ojiichan is no longer able to live alone and to care for the garden. At first, Mayumi is angry, a response I think many children (and adults) will understand. She tries to knock over rocks and kicks up gravel. But as she notices the mess that she’s made, she determines to clean up the garden and “a tiny idea took root”. I won’t ruin the ending by sharing what she did, but in the end, she manages to create not just one, but two remembrances of this special shared garden.
Accompanied by Simms’ soft watercolor illustrations, Uegaki’s text provides a gentle roadmap for kids separated from loved ones and for those trying to hold on to special memories.
A Note about Craft:
Perhaps because a Japanese garden is at the center of Ojiichan’s Gift, the story has a calm and peaceful feel to it, perfect for children who are struggling to adapt to changes in their lives, be it aging elders, a move, or some other major life change. This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!