Tag Archives: Family

Perfect Pairing – features Grandparents & Memory Loss

As the holidays loom and family gatherings feature in many children’s lives, I thought it would be helpful to feature two picture books that might help if those gatherings include older relatives suffering from memory loss.

Grandma Forgets

Author: Paul Russell

Illustrator: Nicky Johnston

Publisher/Date: EK Books, an imprint of Exisle Publishing/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: intergenerational, memory, family, dementia

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When your grandmother can’t remember your name it should be sad, but maybe it is just an opportunity to tell her more often how much you love her. Grandma Forgets is the heart-warming story of a family bound by love as they cope with their grandma’s dementia. Over the years, the little girl has built up a treasure trove of memories of time spent with Grandma: sausages for Sunday lunch, driving in her sky-blue car to the beach, climbing her apple trees while she baked a delicious apple pie, and her comforting hugs during wild storms. But now, Grandma can’t remember those memories. She makes up new rules for old games and often hides Dad’s keys. Sometimes Dad is sad because he has to hold onto the memories for both him and his mother now, but fortunately his daughter is only too happy to help him make new memories to share. This is a warm, hopeful story about a family who sometimes needs to remind their grandmother a little more often than they used to about how much they care. She might have trouble remembering any of their names but she will always know how much she is loved.

Read a review in The Guardian.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which the grandparents are suffering from memory impairment. In Grandma Forgets, the narrator remembers good times with her grandmother and shares that even if Grandma can’t remember her or her family, they have “so many memories of her” and they can always remind Grandma that she is loved. In The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with the difficult topic of memory loss in older relatives in helpful, positive ways.

Perfect Pairing – of Lively Grandparent Books

Although National Grandparents Day was earlier this fall, I think we should celebrate lively and fun grandparents every day. Don’t you agree?

 

I Love My GlamMa

Author: Samantha Berger

Illustrator: Sujean Rim

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandmothers, fashion, family, young at heart

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A celebration of EVERY grandma’s glamorous ways — and the special love that glam-mas share with everything they do!
“Glam-mas don’t just come over… they make a grand entrance!
Glam-mas don’t just celebrate holidays… they celebrate everything!
Glam-mas don’t just carry a purse… they carry a treasure chest!”
A joyful celebration of grandmothers who are young at heart, adventurous, and find a bit of glamour in everything they do. Whether these glam-mas are building sandcastles, riding with dolphins, or turning blankets into reading forts and super capes, they live each day with a playful spirit — just like their grandchildren.
From the writer of Crankenstein and the illustrator of Birdie’s Big-Girl Shoes comes a playful and heartwarming ode to grandmas and grandchildren everywhere… because there’s nothing more glamorous than being a grandma.

Read a review at Grand: Living the Ageless Life.

 

The Truth About Grandparents

Author & Illustrator: Elina Ellis

Publisher/Date: Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: grandparents, family, stereotypes

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this perfect gift for grandparents and grandchildren alike, a loving child reveals the truth behind assumptions that old people just aren’t any fun.

Grandparents are slow. Grandparents are scared of new things. And grandparents definitely don’t dance — right? A simple, playful storyline that children will love anticipating makes this a perfect read-aloud for modern families to share together. With sly humor and breezy, dynamic artwork in the tradition of Quentin Blake, this book is a fresh celebration of the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both shatter misperceptions that grandparents are decrepit, boring, old-fashioned, and resist new ideas. These are fun, quick reads that grandparents will enjoy sharing with their grandchildren, either when they visit in person, or perhaps via Skype or Facetime.

For more books about age-defying seniors and positive images of aging in children’s literature, see A is for Aging, B is for Books.

 

 

PPBF – Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book when I read a wonderful review last month on Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog. Thank you, Jilanne, for sharing this timely picture book.  After reading your review and the book, I just had to feature it here, too.

Title: Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written By: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: border, family, separation, Latinx, grandmother, holidays, #OwnVoices

Opening:

Abuela stars in all of Mamá’s stories, but my only memory is a voice calling me “angelita.” We haven’t seen my grandmother in five years. But today is La Posada Sin Fronteras, and we are taking a bus to the border to meet her.

Brief Synopsis:

US residents María and her younger brother Juan haven’t seen their Mexican grandmother in five years, but they celebrate with her across a border fence on the holiday of La Posada Sin Fronteras.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Las Posada, the nine-day festival leading up to Christmas, and La Posada Sin Fronteras (“The Inn Without Borders”) celebrated one day along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Author’s Note;
  • When you visit an older relative or friend, draw a picture to give to them;
  • Check out the additional resources on Mitali’s website.

Why I Like this Book:

Between Us and Abuela is a heart-warming story of love between family members separated by a border, and of one girl’s efforts to surmount the border to bring joy to her Mexican grandmother and her younger brother, Juan.

Despite the fact that the US-Mexican border has dominated the news these past few years, I had never heard of the tradition of La Posada Sin Fronteras and the comfort it must give to so many. And although stories about separated families have been in the media, including children’s picture books, I think Between Us and Abuela highlights aspects of this separation that aren’t apparent to many children or adults. For instance, María and her Abuela communicate on the telephone, but like other families separated by vast distances, María hasn’t seen her in person for many years. How must that feel? And what a wonderful discussion opportunity this presents to help children empathize with these separated families.

I also love that the children make presents for Abuela and when Juan’s gift doesn’t fit through the fence, María finds a way to deliver it. What a quick-thinking young heroine!

Palacios’ blue and sand-colored palette conjured up images of the California-Mexico border. I also loved the small details she included: the Christmas tree on the cover, signaling the time of year; Abuela’s photograph on the cover; and the gulls who can soar over borders and fences.

A Note about Craft:

When I first saw the title, Between Us and Abuela, I wasn’t sure whether “between” referred to a family bond, love or a physical barrier, especially as the subtitle references the border. In hindsight, I think “between” refers to all of the above! What a great way to draw a reader into this poignant story, by focusing on the bonds and love that is affected, but not severed, by a physical border separating this family.

Perkins’ shares this story using first person point-of-view. This helped me feel like I was right there, experiencing this family reunion. I also found myself brainstorming a solution with María to deliver Juan’s picture to Abuela.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing Visits Polar Bears

I generally think about the subject of today’s Perfect Pairing in winter time, when it’s cold outside. But given the increased warming of our world, I think any time of year is a good time to learn about these Arctic creatures. Don’t you agree?

Polar Bear Island

Written By: Lindsay Bonilla

Illustrated By: Cinta Villalobos

Publisher/DateSterling Children’s Books/2018

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: inclusivity, polar bears, penguins, differences, immigration, welcoming others

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Kirby, a fun-loving penguin, arrives on Polar Bear Island, she shakes things up—much to the dismay of Parker, the mayor. Will Parker learn to see how great it is to make new friends? Or will he chase Kirby away . . . forever? 
“Welcome to Polar Bear Island. NO OTHERS ALLOWED!” Parker is the mayor of this peaceful, predictable island, and he wants to keep it just the way it is. But Kirby, a penguin, thinks the place is paradise, and she wants to stay. Parker says no, but the other polar bears love Kirby —and soon they’re begging Parker to let Kirby (and her family) move in. Will Parker agree . . . and make the island fun for EVERYONE? With its gentle message of inclusivity, this playful and lighthearted story will delight children.

Read my review.

 

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival

Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers/2019

Ages: 4-9

Themes: polar bears, family, perseverance, nonfiction, climate change

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Imagine you are a polar bear.

Your coat is thick. Your teeth are sharp.

Your front paws are paddles, your back paws are rudders, and you can swim for miles.

Your home has always been the sea and the ice.

A sea bear, far north in the Arctic, hunts and naps and raises her young. She moves with the ice, swimming, running, stalking seals, resting. She follows the rhythm of the sea and the seasons.

But what happens when those rhythms change? What happens when there is no ice?

Lindsay Moore shares the story of one polar bear’s journey for survival in this stunning picture book.

Imagine. 

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because both feature polar bears. While Polar Bear Island is a work of fiction and its main themes are welcoming others and immigrants, climate change is causing some people and animals to flee their homes and search for better lives elsewhere. With its emphasis on climate change, its informative back matter, and its text told in lyrical language from the perspective of a polar bear, Sea Bear is, I think, a wonderful book to pair with it.

PPBF – Sea Prayer

The news, tragically, continues to be dominated by stories of refugees, whether those fleeing violence, those seeking better lives for themselves or for their children, or those displaced by climate change. Today’s Perfect Picture Book features a pair of refugees with prayers for a better life.

Title: Sea Prayer

Written By: Khaled Hosseini

Illustrated By: Dan Williams

Publisher/Date: Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2018

Suitable for Ages: 8 and up

Themes/Topics: refugees, family, Syria

Opening:

My dear Marwan, in the long summers of childhood, when I was a boy the age you are now, your uncles and I spread our mattress on the roof of your grandfather’s farmhouse outside of Homs.

Brief Synopsis: A father addresses his sleeping son to share his memories of the life they’re leaving in Syria and his hopes for a future free of conflict.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • If you were going on a journey, what would you bring? Choose three favorite toys or books that you’d bring along.

Why I Like this Book:

With lyrical, heartfelt text, an unnamed father addresses his young son, as the pair await a boat to flee from the conflict in Syria. First recalling his hometown of Homs, as it was before the war and as he believes his son will never experience it, the father then anticipates the future, starting with the sea voyage itself. Like parents everywhere trying to protect their children from fear, Marwan’s father downplays the dangers of the journey, and he pledges to protect Marwan. The story ends as the father prays that the sea realizes how precious a cargo is about to embark. And there the story ends, leaving the reader to hope, and pray, that the pair arrive safely on a welcoming shore, and that, at some future time, they are able to return to a Homs free from war.

Although Sea Prayer clearly is targeted to an older audience, I think it’s a wonderful way to build understanding and empathy for the plight of refugees, whether, as here, they are fleeing conflict, or whether they’re forced to flee due to economic need or climate change.

Williams’ haunting watercolors are a perfect accompaniment to Hosseini’s emotional text. The image of a small, crowded dingy on roiling seas is particularly effective.

A Note about Craft:

In an end note, Hosseini shares that he was inspired to write Sea Prayer in response to the death of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned enroute to Europe in 2015 and whose photograph on the beach appeared worldwide. From this inspiration, Hosseini, an Afghan and author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns who has spent much of his life in the United States, penned this story. He utilizes first-person point-of-view which draws the reader into the scene, encouraging us to hope, and pray, that the unnamed father’s prayer is answered and that young Marwan does not suffer the fate of Alan Kurdi and so many other children and adults.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

Perfect Pairing – of Grandparents & Balloons

I saw the first book featured today on a shelf in my local library, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite picture books from last year – the recipe, in my mind, for a perfect pairing! Note, too, the publication date of the first book featured and its inclusion of a multicultural family.

 

A Balloon for Grandad

Author: Nigel Gray

Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts, Inc./1988

Ages: 4-7

Themes: intergenerational, multicultural, balloons, family, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Unhappy when he loses his silver and red balloon, Sam is comforted by imagining it on its way to visit his grandfather in Egypt.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which balloons play an important role. In A Balloon for Grandad, the thought that his lost balloon may be traveling to visit Grandad far away consoles Sam, whereas in The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with difficult topics: the distance that separates many loved ones and memory loss in older relatives.

Looking for similar reads? See Grandad’s Island.

Perfect Pairing – Visits Andy Warhol

I read a recent review of the first picture book featured today (thanks, Jilanne!), but when I checked my local library’s catalog, I found another picture book by the same author that’s similar. You know what that means…

 

Uncle Andy’s: A faabbulous visit with Andy Warhol 

Author & Illustrator: James Warhola

Publisher/Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/2003

Ages: 4-8

Themes: pop art, family, artistic influences, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When James Warhola was a little boy, his father had a junk business that turned their yard into a wonderful play zone that his mother didn’t fully appreciate! But whenever James and his family drove to New York City to visit Uncle Andy, they got to see how “junk” could become something truly amazing in an artist’s hands.

Uncle Andy’s offers an exciting and unique perspective on one of the most influential artists of our time. Through James’ eyes, we see the things that made his family visits memorable-including the wonderful disarray of Andy’s house, waking up surrounded by important art and incredible collected objects, trying on Andy’s wigs, sharing the run of Andy’s house with his twenty-five cats (all named Sam), and getting art supplies from Andy as a goodbye present. James was lucky enough to learn about art from an innovative master and he shows how these visits with Uncle Andy taught him about the creative process and inspired him to become an artist.

Read a review at Jilanne Hoffmann’s blog.

 

Uncle Andy’s Cats

Author & Illustrator: James Warhola

Publisher/Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons/2009

Ages:  4-8

Themes: cats, problem-solving, pop art, humor

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It all started with a little blue cat named Hester. Then along came Sam, and it was love at first sight — and lots of little Sams! While the cats are perfectly happy stampeding through Uncle Andy’s art studio and frolicking among his soup boxes, the humans know things have to change. So Uncle Andy devises a brilliant plan to make his cats famous — and easier to find homes for. James Warhola’s childhood memories of trips to New York City to visit his uncle, Andy Warhol, inspired this warm, funny story of the famous artist’s house full of cats. Kids will pore over the illustrations trying to spot all the Sams, as well as some very clever mice.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

I paired these books because they are by the same author/illustrator, both are based on visits with his famous uncle, artist Andy Warhol, but they highlight different aspects of the author’s and Warhol’s lives. In Uncle Andy, the narrator, a young boy, describes a particular visit to his uncle’s house in New York City and the awe and wonder experienced  by a young child from a rural, hectic family along with the reactions of Warhol, who lived an artist’s life in the city. In Uncle Andy’s Cats, Warhola shifts the focus to be more on Warhol. Warhola tells the story of how his famous uncle and his grandmother acquired too many cats, but then Uncle Andy solved the problem using his artistic skills. Both are based on fact. For a fascinating history of the book of cat prints that Warhol published, see Fully Feline.