CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 4. . . . October 18, 2002
In her introduction to 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents, author Dette Hunter writes that it is a book "...about having fun together. First of all, it's a story book because reading a story is the best entertainment there is. But it is more than a story. In this book when you read about Sarah and her family doing something that you think would be great to try, the instructions and recipes are right there."
The storyline begins with the parents saying good-bye to their three children and Dad exhorting them to "Take good care of your grandparents. Don't let them get bored." Sarah, the young narrator, can hardly believe her ears. She doesn't know grandparents can get bored. "Besides, how can three small children keep two full-grown grandparents happy for a whole weekend?" As the weekend goes by, the children take the lead in suggesting activities which include games, crafts and the making of meals and snacks.
Cooking activities include putting together an all pizza supper (main course and dessert), hummus, alphabet pancakes, chocolate cake and belly-button soup. The recipes are clearly and simply set out with warnings to readers to ensure adult supervision when appliances are being used. Traditional card games such as Fish and Crazy 8's are carefully explained, as well as several easy-to-make crafts, such as puppets, placemats and paper hats. Deidre Betteridge's charming up-beat illustrations bring the grandparents and children to life, as well as making all directions clear and easy to follow. Grandparents will be happy to discover nothing unusual or expensive or exotic is necessary for any of the activities.
Hunter's idea of reversing the baby-sitting responsibility in 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents is more likely to amuse grown-up readers than listeners in the 5 to 8 year-old age group. Written as it is from the point of view of Sarah, middle child of three (who appears to be around 6 or 7 years of age) the text is engagingly simple. However since it is adult readers -- probably grandparents -- who will be reading and following directions for the activities outlined in the book, the question that comes to mind is, exactly who is the book's intended audience? Creating an activity book with a storyline is a difficult endeavour because reading and doing tend to get in each other's way. Story reading involves a sit-down-and-cuddle-up relationship which is basically egalitarian, whereas cooking, playing games and making crafts necessitates an up-and-about working relationship with an adult as boss.
As the author points out in her introduction, there is more than one way to approach this book. Reading the whole book and doing all the activities in two days (as happens in the book) would be prove exhausting even for the fittest of grandparents. As a book to browse through on a rainy day, however, 38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents does provide some good opportunities for inter-generational fun.
Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is also an "entertaining" grandmother.
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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.