Picture books open the door to have a conversation with a child on a new or difficult subject. This week, in celebration of Read Across America week, we wanted to share with you two books that can help introduce topics to children that your family maybe facing as you navigate having an older adult in your family with memory loss or helping a loved one move to a senior living community.
Today’s book is a favorite in my house.
Grandpa Green is a Caldecott Honor Book written and illustrated by Lane Smith. It’s a simple, but impactful and visually stunning book – the kind that each time you read you discover more details in the pictures and more meaning behind the thoughtfully chosen words.
As you read, you follow a small boy through an incredible garden full of topiaries that tell the story of his grandfather, Grandpa Green and illustrate important moments in his life. Grandpa Green, who always loved to garden, has created everything from – an Eiffel Tower from when he met his wife at a café in Paris, to characters from his favorite books as a child, and even a topiary of his face when he had chicken pox in the fourth grade.
As the book progresses we learn that Grandpa Green is starting to forget things. At this turning point in the story we finally see Grandpa Green for the first time. It’s a bittersweet moment as we now see the grandchild with his grandpa, both playing in the garden and starting to care for it himself. There is a wonderful and very clever four page spread that opens up where we see many of the beautiful topiary memories again on one giant spread that will delight a young reader and inspire them to remember and describe Grandpa Green’s memories themselves – just as we now know that his grandson will do when he cares for the garden and as he lives his own life.
On the very last page we see the little boy creating his own topiary and of course, it’s of his Grandpa Green who is smiling.
When I asked my children if the book makes them a little sad, because although I love this book it is very bittersweet to me. They replied in the sweet and simple way that only small children can “it’s not a sad because his grandson is going to remember for him”.
They, and this lovely book, remind me that is what we all do every day – we try to remember and share the important things for people we love who know longer can and to treasure who they were as well as who they are now.
Grandpa Green is the perfect book to use as a gentle introduction of the topic of memory loss to children while providing some comfort and deeper meaning to the adult reader sharing the story.
Grandpa Green is available to read here on the shelves at the Scottish Home.