The books highlighted this week all celebrate the unique bond that exists between children and their grandparents.
For Jennifer, a rare visit from her halmoni -- Korean for grandmother -- is a mixed blessing. It has been four years since Halmoni's last visit, and although Jennifer is looking forward to the chance to get to know her only grandparent better, she is anxious about Halmoni's visiting her classroom for Grandparents Day. Halmoni speaks no English and wears a colorful silk dress instead of the running shoes and casual clothes her classmates' grandparents wear. When it is time for the grandparents to share a favorite memory in front of the class, Halmoni will need Jennifer's mother to translate for her.
In Halmoni's Day (Dial Books for Young Readers), first-time author Edna Coe Bercaw presents a delightful story about the universality of a grandparent's love for a grandchild. Readers will be able to sympathize with Jennifer's uneasiness about Halmoni's cultural and linguistic differences and Halmoni's heart-wrenching tale of her own childhood in war-torn Korea. The ending, when Jennifer's reservations about her grandmother melt away as she comes to appreciate just how much she is a part of Halmoni's life, is presented so simply and so movingly that its predictability comes across as comfortingly familiar rather than formulaic.
Illustrator Robert Hunt's oil paintings capture the characters' emotions beautifully, from the sheer delight in Halmoni's face when she first arrives at the airport to her slight trepidation as she begins to tell the disturbing story about her own father's absence from her life during the Korean War. Hunt's soft-edged yet realistic illustrations add greatly to the charm of this captivating book. Whether used for Grandparents Day or as a valuable lesson in diversity, Halmoni's Day is enjoyable both for reading aloud and for elementary school readers to enjoy on their own.
In Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate (Dutton Children's Books), by Carol Diggory Shields, the first-person narrator talks excitedly about an eagerly anticipated visit from "my favorite person in the world."
Illustrator Hiroe Nakata's cheerful watercolors depict spirited goings-on by a grandfather and grandson as the text describes all the things that they enjoy in common: mugs of hot chocolate chock full of marshmallows, waking up early, driving with the car top down. They also share the same dislikes: getting dressed up in fancy, uncomfortable clothes and cleaning up after playtime.
The whimsical illustrations are warm, colorful, and somewhat childlike. The text, composed in short sentences, is set in large type somewhat suggestive of hand printing, adding to the sense of youthful exuberance.
Kids and grandparents alike will appreciate the coziness of the world shared by these two best friends, and readers will get a kick out of the surprise twist at the end!
Carol Diggory Shields, a librarian, is the author of several children's books. This the first picture book for illustrator Hiroe Nakata, who was encouraged to draw by her own grandfather.
Grandparents Day is an exciting event for everyone at Lassie Lower School, except for Arnie, who is sad because he has no grandparents to invite. Then, Ms. Childs, the school librarian, has a great idea: Why not invite other grownups that he knows to be his grandparents for a day?
In Hooray for Grandparents' Day! (Viking), author and illustrator Nancy Carlson takes a sensitive, light-hearted look at the importance of older adults in the lives of children.
At Ms. Childs' suggestion, Arnie rushes home to invite his neighbors to be his "honorary" grandparents. On the way, he excitedly explains his plans to a variety of adults: the school custodian, the coach, the elderly couple who run the bakery, and the dressmaker. When he arrives at home, however, he discovers that his neighbors are away on vacation. As he walks to school the next day, he sadly informs all his grown-up friends that he won't have any guests for Grandparents Day after all. Then, in class, when it seems like he is the only one without any visitors, all of his adult friends -- including Ms. Childs -- arrive to be his grandparents for the day!
The author and illustrator of more than 40 children's books, Nancy Carlson specializes in stories that help kids feel good about themselves and others. Find out more about Carlson and her books at her Web site, Nancy's Neighborhood.
Kids and Grandparent's: An Activity Book (Kids Can Press), by Ann Love and Jane Drake, offers a variety of activities for children to enjoy with their grandparents. From crafts, puzzles, and recipes to sleight-of-hand tricks and family skits, more than 90 ideas can help the generations draw closer.
The mix of activities, both indoor and out, should appeal to children of different ages. Most activities will be familiar to older grandparents, such as playing jacks and marbles. Materials lists and step-by-step instructions are provided for craft projects and recipes. The drawings by Heather Collins help clarify the text.
The first section, Making Memories, makes this activity book stand out from others of the genre. Included here are such projects as creating a memory book, researching a family tree, and taking walks in neighborhoods where the grandparents used to live. Another useful idea is a family calendar -- a means of keeping track of important dates and milestones -- that students could create and present to grandparents.
As an activity book alone, Kids and Grandparents: An Activity Book would be a welcome addition to the home or classroom.
The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate any of the books, ask your bookseller to order them for you or contact the publisher directly.
Lauren P. Gattilia
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