You’ve got a friend in Grandma

Gennari grandparentMy Italian grandmother lived to be 104, and you could always count on her to tell you what you needed to hear. No sugar coating. No blaming either. Just move on and make the best of life.

Every kid needs a caring adult, especially after age 10 when parents start to become uncool. That’s when grandparents can step in. Once preteens stop confiding in their parents, it’s important to have someone who listens.

YeecovercreechcoverThat’s the case in Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee. Millie is super smart but too often misreads how to behave with her peers. Millie’s grandmother Maddie is the one who provides the reasoned voice when Millie won’t listen to anyone else. She provides the crucial guidance, advising Millie to patch up her friendship with Emily: “Sometimes it’s better to be liked than it is to be right.” And my all time favorite grandparents are Gramps and Gram in Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

manzanocoverSometimes the grandmother isn’t always wise. In Sonia Manzano’s The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, a Pura Belpré honor book, the arrival of Abuela shakes things up. Set in El Barrio in New York in 1969, Evelyn is pulling away from the family life she’s always known. Abuela dresses flamboyantly and always gets involved in causes, which both thrills and embarrasses Evelyn. The occupation of the church by the Young Lords Puerto Ricans teaches Evelyn to embrace her heritage. But she also understands her grandmother for the first time:

“I turned to see what Mami was doing. She was staring at her mother. I was looking at my mother and she was looking at her mother. Mami was looking at Abuela the way you look at a puzzle and can’t quite figure it out. How many times had I looked at Mami the same way?” It is then Evelyn understands the hurt her grandmother has caused her own mother, “like she missed her even though she was looking right at her.”

urbancoverRuby’s grandmother has died in Linda Urban’s newest book, The Center of the Universe. Ruby struggles with her grief and regret that she didn’t listen, just a little longer. For Ruby, her big moment in the Bunning Day parade in her small town gives her the chance to pay homage to her beloved grandmother Gigi. As Meg Wolitzer writes in her New York Times review, “The Center of Everything uses the premise of a grandparent’s death in a surprising way, exploring not only grief but also its occasional companions, anxiety and guilt.”

I love it when books acknowledge the role grandparents play in young kids’ lives. What other grandparent books do you love?

  1. Good article. I definitely love this site. Continue the good

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  2. My grandmothers both died when I was too young to remember them so it was my grandpa (Bumpa) that had the most influence in my life. He was one of those gruff, no-nonsense types but he gave great advice. (Even though I hardly ever asked for it!) My son and I recently read (and loved), When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica Perl, which has a great Grandpa character, Ace. I love how the author wrote all the Grandpa’s words in all caps; it perfectly captures his booming voice. Such a great book and a super fun read aloud.

  3. Also The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang has a grandmother that is central to the story. Congrats on your grandmother! My mom is turning 90 this year and it’s wonderful to know that 104 is possible!!

  4. I love grandparents in MG books, too. Maybe since I never knew my own grandmothers and both my grandfathers died when I was young, so I like to dream about what they would be like! I had so much fun creating and writing about Grammy Claire in my new book, When the Butterflies Came (Scholastic). It was sort of surreal because the letters she writes to her granddaughter, Tara, the MC, in case of her untimely death, practically wrote themselves. Like I was *channeling* her! And I hardly had to revise them. Her voice came immediately to me and so strong.

    Fun post, thanks!

  5. Thanks, Megan, for the suggestion! I will check it out. Jordan — yes! Heidi! I had forgotten that.

  6. Sometimes the grandpa can be the wise guiding one and that wisdom can be felt even over vast distances. I’m hoping that the love and respect will be clear in my soon to be published The Black Pony, Midnight Finds a Friend.

  7. Another nice and unique post. I think I have some unconventional ideas when I think of grandparents in middle grade….like Gangsta Granny, by David Walliams or maybe the grandmother (a ghost) in ParaNorman. Both play prominent roles in the books and both are entertaining reads.
    The grandma and particularly the grandpa in “Remarkable” are quite a pair also. Also, a “remarkable” book overall!
    Thanks for getting me thinking 🙂

  8. I think that grandparents in middle grade books are so special, especially because of my experiences with my grandparents while growing up. Though it is not necessarily a middle grade book, the relationship between the main character and her “babushka” in Thunder cake is so sweet to me. I also have always loved the bond that Heidi shares with her grandfather in the book Heidi. I think it’s great when authors explore different family relationships in middle grade literature. I helps these stories be more relatable to real life circumstances.

  9. Great post, Jen! Wow, 104! I also love grandparents in middle grade books.

  10. The grandma in Love, Aubrey is a rock when Aubrey’s world, including her own mother, crumbles around her.