The universe works in profound and mysterious ways. I was waiting for the birth of my first grandchild when the announcement came that this year’s Newbery Medal went to a picture book about a boy and his Nana taking a long bus ride. I’d already been thinking I might want to be called Nana, and “Last Stop on Market Street” made up my mind for sure. The book’s wise, wry grandmother is all about finding beauty in the least likely places. She’s a beacon of love and empathy, and her grandson swims in her light. I had my role model, for sure.
This all got me thinking about how many wonderful books we have about what grandparents can mean in kids’ lives. Here are just a few.
From Amazon: In this unique collection, twelve of today’s most acclaimed children’s book authors take us on a journey to the grandmothers’ houses of their memories. Some of the stories are sweetly nostalgic. Others are heartbreaking stories of difficult, or even absent, grandmothers. But each celebrates the sometimes warm, sometimes tense, always special relationship between grandmothers and their granddaughters.
From Indiebound: The winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata. Summer knows that “kouun” means good luck in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.
Obaachan and Jiichan are old-fashioned and demanding, and Summer inevitably disappoints them. Just when she hopes the bad luck is finished, things get much worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan.
From Tricia: This is the first in a three-book series destined to become a classic. Big Ma is one of my favorite characters in all of kid lit! While I don’t especially want to be like her, I recognize that her love and concern for her granddaughters know no bounds, and they are who they are in large part because of her.
From Indiebound: “What does it mean to be fully alive? Magic blends with reality in this coming-of-age novel about a girl, a grandfather, wanderlust, and reclaiming your roots.
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots.
From Indiebound: A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.
Yes, I confess, this one’s by me! And just happens to be dedicated to my grandbaby’s parents! It publishes in a few days, and features a Michael- Jackson-loving, tai-chai-practicing granny who just might be based on a few people I happen to know. Cody adores GG, of course! This is the second book in my CODY series, continuing the adventures of irrepressible Cody and deep-thinking best friend Spencer. As they tangle with the Meen Family next door, Cody puzzles over friendship, how to be patient, the baton of love, and other mysteries in a funny, cozy story set in a lively, diverse neighborhood. Once again illustrated by that genius, Eliza Wheeler! (April 12, Candlewick)
So many books I didn’t mention here (the wonderful “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” and its sequel, for starters). Please add your own favorite books/ grandparent memories below!