Before I get into this book (which is so, so beautiful), I first want to thank The Bookshelf Gargoyle for giving me my first blogging award, the Gargie! Thanks Bruce! And I also want to point out that my 4 year old will henceforth be referred to as my 5 year old- my New Year’s Eve baby is already reading to his little sister, I’m afraid he’ll be into chapter books soon!
Now, Grandpa Green, winner of the 2012 Caldecott Honor. The first time I picked up the book, I wasn’t sure where the illustrations were going- which I’m sure was by design. When I got to the last page, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I got just a bit teary. The story is told by a young boy, describing the life story of his great grandfather through a series of Edward Scissorhands-style topiaries. There’s a carrot and a laying hen representing his childhood on the farm, and a small green head with red berries growing in it for when he had chicken pox as a boy. There’s the cannon and the bomber plane representing his experience in the war, and the Eiffel tower and a woman with a hibiscus flower growing behind her ear for his wife.
Eventually, we see the green leafy elephant of the cover with an old misplaced hat on. The bushes are less full, the leaves are changing color and starting to fall. Grandpa Green doesn’t remember things very well anymore.
The last page unfolds and zooms out to show us a large garden with all of the shaped bushes, and there’s Grandpa Green with his pruning shears and his hat, smiling and surrounded by his well-tended memories.
“But the important stuff, the garden remembers for him.”
It’s not an unusual life story, but it’s a touching telling of it. The illustrations are so layered that in each reading, my 4 year old (Gah! 5 year old!) finds something new. For me reading it aloud, thinking of my own grandparents’ stories and now particularly my grandmother’s slow memory loss, I get really choked up wishing I could commemorate her story as eloquently.
Do you have a such a visceral reaction to reading some books?