Tag Archives: grandparents

PPBF – Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family

I have a yummy, new picture book to feature today, that I think you’ll agree is a Perfect Picture Book in so many ways!

Title: Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family

Written & Illustrated By: Elizabeth Zunon

Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/May 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: grandparents, chocolate, family history

Opening:

Chocolate is my most favorite thing ever. For my birthday, Daddy and I are making our family’s special celebration cake while Mommy goes to pick up another treat.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl learns about her grandfather, a cacao farmer in Africa, as she and her father prepare a special birthday cake and await a special treat.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover how cacao is grown and harvested;
  • Learn about the history of cacao and try these chocolate challenges, including coloring pages;
  • The narrator guesses several times throughout the story about what treat her mother is bringing home for her birthday. Describe or draw a picture of your favorite treat or treats – is it something to eat or drink? A special thing or a special activity?
  • Make some chocolaty treats.

Why I Like this Book:

Grandpa Cacao is a fascinating exploration of cacao bean farming in western Africa and a heart-warming tale of a granddaughter’s love for a grandfather she’s never met. I love how the unnamed narrator and her father mix and bake a special chocolate cake for her birthday, and, while doing so, Daddy shares details about Grandpa Cacao’s farm and their own family history. The anticipation builds as the narrator guesses again and again what “treat” her mother is picking up. What do you think it may be? I think many kids, and adults, will have fun guessing.

I particularly love Zunon’s stunning and colorful artwork – how she brings details of Africa into the house and shows the farm and Grandpa Cacao as the narrator imagines them.

For those who want to learn more of the story behind the story, there’s an Author’s Note, and “Chocolate Chunks” that explains the science, history, and production of chocolate. Zunon even shares the recipe for the Chocolate Celebration Cake so readers and their families can make and enjoy it, too.

A Note about Craft:

In an agent’s submission guidelines I recently read, she asked anyone submitting to include why s/he is the best person to write the submitted manuscript. While I think most kidlit creators and reviewers understand the concept of #OwnVoices, this directive, I believe, means something more: a personal connection to a particular story. How do you know if you, or if the person who has created a story, has that connection? I think the many details a creator can include and the emotion that oozes, like chocolate, from the text and/or illustrations are two indicators evident in Grandpa Cacao. What are some other features that you think show when someone is the right person to share a story?

Zunon is the illustrator of Baptiste & Miranda Paul’s I Am Farmer, among many other picture books. Visit her website to see more of her work. Grandpa Cacao is her debut as author and illustrator. Read a post she shared as a guest on the Nerdy Book Club blog about the genesis of Grandpa Cacao.

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!

PPBF – Drawn Together

I first learned of today’s Perfect Picture Book from a blog post interview (cited below) with the talented author and illustrator. I knew right away that I had to read and review this newly-published picture book. I’m so glad I did!

34791219

Title: Drawn Together

Written By: Minh Lê

Illustrated By: Dan Santat

Publisher/Date: Disney Hyperion (an imprint of Disney Book Group)/2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5 (and older)

Themes/Topics: grandparents; communication; connections; art

Opening:

So…what’s new, Grandpa?

Brief Synopsis: A young boy and his non-English speaking grandfather bridge their communication divide through art and a shared love of fantasy.

Links to Resources:

  • Watch a video of Dan Santat discussing his art process for Drawn Together;
  • Draw a picture of, or for, a grandparent or special person in your life;
  • Lê’s grandparents and parents emigrated from Vietnam. Santat is of Thai descent. Discover these two Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam and Thailand;
  • Find more ideas in the Educator Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

Drawn Together is a visually stunning picture book that tackles an important question: how to bridge a generational divide, especially when the parties don’t speak the same language. In this case, the unnamed young narrator doesn’t speak Thai, the language of his grandfather, the grandfather speaks no English, and the two seem far apart and rather unhappy together as the story begins. But a shared love of creating art unites the two, even though the art they create differs stylistically. In the book’s dramatic turning point, the grandfather surprises his grandson “by revealing a world beyond words.” The boy notes that “in a FLASH” the pair see each other through their art, through the fantastical characters and scenes they create with markers, pen and ink.

What starts as a fairly quiet book becomes a rousing adventure as the pair work together to draw and defeat a “roaring” serpent monster. I think the inclusion of these epic action-filled scenes will appeal to kids (and adults), whether or not they’ve experienced communication problems with older relatives, new kids at school, or anyone else.

Santat created the detailed illustrations in traditional mixed media. I especially enjoyed how the beginning illustrations were wordless panels, like stills from a cartoon video, but then became intricate, full-page and double-page spreads with the boy’s and grandfather’s creations interacting to create “a new world that even words can’t describe.”

A Note about Craft:

With text comprising about 100 words and not starting until page 4, to say that this is a low word-count picture book or that Lê left plenty of space for the illustrator is a bit of an understatement. Nowhere in the text does it explicitly dictate how the two artists’ creations will come together to “build a new world”. Lê seemingly gave no direction to his illustrator, letting Santat create the new world from old, pen & ink, black & white, Asian warriors, and new, colorful markers and a young wizard reminiscent of Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia.

The title is, as you’ve probably discovered, a double entendre, a play on words, that drew this reader in & reminded me of the importance of an evocative, memorable title.

Finally, as I examined the endpapers, lifted the jacket cover, and poured over Drawn Together, I was reminded of Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach, and the many opportunities Lê and Santat offer readers to delve deeper into this wonderful collaboration.

Visit Minh Lê’s website. Read the transcript, or listen to the audio, of an All Things Considered (NPR) interview with Lê about Drawn Together and the importance of connecting with others.

Visit Dan Santat’s website to see more of his books and artwork.

For an insightful Q&A with Lê & Santat, see Think Quick.

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!