CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 27. . . .March 15, 2013
From the first pronouncement of "I know my grandma loves me," Ward runs through a catalogue of childhood experiences with grandma, all of the statements infused with sweetness that would go over well as a lap-book to be shared between grandparent and grandchild (more specifically, a granddaughter). Inspired by the author's own daughter's relationship with her grandmother, the story has a strong concept in that the accompanying illustrations span the birth of the granddaughter, when the grandma first gazes down at the newborn girl, to when the child turns six (as evidenced by the birthday cake candles). This progression of a child enjoying a beautiful relationship with a grandparent is an effective one that certainly tugs at the heartstrings.
The text is neatly bookended with the same opening refrain, with the pages in between detailing scenarios that all begin with “I know my grandma loves me when….” There are several nods to enjoying the seasonal activities of a cold Canadian winter, swimming when the weather's still too cold for it, and the developing interests of a young child (mimicking animals, spilling a boxful of crayons, splashing in puddles, sledding, jumping in puddles). The everyday experiences described are not reimagined in new or unexpected ways, but the effect of the story is a gentle one, reassuring in its familiarity. The text runs a tad on the long side, but since the story is not plot-driven, one could easily share this with a young audience and skip a spread or two without taking away from the book’s central theme of unconditional, nurturing love from a grandparent.
Given the warmth and earnest sentiments of the text, it is unfortunate that the pictures do not quite match up. The human figures are depicted sometimes with a marionette-like stiffness rather than life-like grace. The colours of the book are faded (Ellis seems to have worked with pencil crayons and watercolours for the background), the hues subdued—a more vibrant palette may have worked better to match the warmth of the text. That said, certain spreads work more effectively than others. Ellis has a good eye for what could work as interesting spreads. For example, there is a half-spread of the grandchild flying high on a swing, with the grandma pushing her. Another is an aerial view of the child enjoying a Very Hungry Caterpillar picnic, with all the caterpillar’s culinary conquests spread on plates. It is evident Ellis pours a lot of thought and enthusiasm into faithfully portraying what is described in the text.
I Know My Grandma Loves Me is a picture book with potential to be a heartwarming intergenerational read-aloud; it is the kind of book that a grandma would read over and over and over again, as though it were the very first time. Sadly, aspects of the artwork diminish the other merits of the book. I recommend that using supporting materials (turning it into an abbreviated felt story, or simply telling the story aloud as a jumping-off point for a discussion on grandparents) would help in the classroom or school library. When making the decision to purchase, however, I would suggest that one looks at the free PDF preview of the picture book on the Peanut Butter Press website. Please note that the PDF preview makes the colours of the illustration look brighter than the actual book.
Recommended with reservations.
Ellen Wu holds a MFA in children’s literature and is the teen services librarian at Surrey Libraries in BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.