Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Grandparents - A Global Future (FAMILY magazine reviews)
The vital connections between grandparents and the children of
their children is a bond, linking the fabric of the future with the potency of the past. These books offer a glimpse into the substantial influence wielded, often gently, by those who love profoundly and understand the dynamic energy of education, the power of story, and the strength of memories.
The Perfect Gift
by Mary Ellen DePalma.
Scholastic, $16.99, Ages 4-8
Blending a loving grandmother with the reading and telling of stories is a
perfect match between story, characters, and readers, as Lori, the lorikeet, finds a strawberry to give her grandmother. When the strawberry “hip, hop, plops!” into the river, Lori is interrupted in her tearful moaning by first, a helpful chipmunk who strains, unsuccessfully, to rescue the berry, then by a lovely, long-necked goose, who also comes up empty-handed.
A “flip-flopping frog” finally brings the berry back to the surface for Lori. But before she can even thank him, disaster strikes in the form of a crocodile. The lorikeet frantically tosses her beautiful berry into the air to distract the crocodile, rescuing everyone, but losing the berry, and injuring herself in the process.
Author-artist DePalma uses a medley of illustrations to convey movement, by choosing to cast some of the action outside the framework of the illustration’s usual boundaries, making expansive use of white space, with just a few elements to cast the story, as a story within a story. This foreshadowing of Lori’s final idea of a gift, gives extended dimension to a busy text, and along with the childlike font, adds zest.
Our Grandparents: A Global Album
by Maya Ajmera, Sheila Kinkade, Cynthia Pon
(with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
Charlesbridge, $16.95 ($7.95 paperback), Ages 4-7
Featuring vibrant photos of grandparents with grandchildren, often in pairs, from more than 30 countries, with an additional dozen or more profiling varied cultural realities in the USA, this affectionate book demonstrates the joy and respect experienced across generations. Using multiple languages, the words for grandmother and grandfather are highlighted between the title page and Tutu’s Foreword.
Additionally, this book is both supported by and, with its sales, supports the work of the Global Fund for Children, a nonprofit organization “committed to advancing the dignity of children and youth around the world, by teaching the value of diversity.” Also, backmatter includes a world map, identifying the countries represented in the photos, and a couple pages of Things to Do together.
A variety of skin tones, assorted backgrounds in the photos, as well as captivating activities, or simply the involvement in being present to each other, are all further demonstration of active language used in the text to engage readers. As one moves through this charming book, one can be compelled to remember one’s own grandparents and the enchantment of those experiences, or be energized to launch a similar opportunity.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
by Jeanette Winter.
Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 6-9
Nasreen’s grandmother shows her granddaughter’s losses – schools formerly available for girls are no longer permitted by the Taliban; soldiers have taken her father; Nasreen’s mother goes searching for him, although the streets are forbidden to women and girls who are alone – and Nasreen’s resulting months-long, sad fearful silence. When there are whispers of a secret school for girls, the grandmother risks suspicion and discovery to take Nasreen, who sits at the back.
Award-winning nonfiction author/artist Winter is skilled in her use of simple sentences to invoke powerful experiences. She uses window-like borders to confine her strong-toned acrylic illustrations, partnering the vivid text with equally
evocative paintings, supplying readers with another kind of window -- into a different reality. Winter’s blue burqas (required coverings for women away from home), grey-blue soldiers, and smoky-blue shadowed figures contrast with greens, pinks, golds and purples in the girls’ clothing, and in the illustrations representing education and the arts. An author’s note at the beginning explains the context of the story and why the nonprofit, Global Fund for Children, is featured on the cover.
The danger to the students and teacher is constant, and the cold winter recess is long and anxious. But the grandmother’s loving concern drives her to hazard true peril, supporting her granddaughter’s opportunity to learn, to develop friendships, to discover, opening still another window – this one for Nasreen. A window of knowledge, offering both solace in her experience of isolation, and hope for the future.