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Grandpa Green

Grandpa GreenSo, a few of you have chimed in about Grandpa Green and I can see why.

The committee will have a ball talking about this book. In order for the story to be fully appreciated, the reader has to read the pictures slowly. Objects morph into other things—tears into garden hose water, bush into cannon. Beyond recalling his grandfather’s life, what is the boy doing? Collecting lost objects in the garden and returning them to the grandfather. On that last spread, look carefully; See where the glasses are now? The glove? The hat? Isn’t that fun? Though the back of the garden is faded, everything on this page is found in the body of the book. It’s all in order, baby on the left, wedding cake on the right. Pretty neat. I do not see the factory-like grandchildren, though. Why not?

The art itself is fresh and imaginative, using line, shadow and color in exciting ways, Digital and other paints and inks play well with each other and the negative spaces between topiary and trees is rich.

So, if you have read this—or seen the spreads at various websites—what do you think? Is this a picture book for children or is it for their parents and grandparents? Does it matter? Is it for both? If you have shared this with children, how do they react? What do they make of the elephant, prominent on the cover and two pages, but not actually in the life of the older man?

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Uh oh, Robin. We agree on this. Didn’t Roger choose us so we would do battle with our vastly different opinions? This is the kind of book that rises to the top of the pile early: big-name picture book creator, huge adult appeal, lots of detail in the art to make us feel smart. What’s interesting about actually BEING on the Caldecott Committee is that the weightiness of the task tends to make the members super-vigilant. Every book that’s suggested or nominated is read and reread, allowing more subtle books get the kind of attention they might not get otherwise. I’d guess that your committee choosing Amos McGee and my committee choosing The Red Book were the result of this kind of scrutiny.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    Word has it that Caldecott committees LOVE when they “discover” things in the pictures. I blame the multitudes of cats wandering unremarked through picture books entirely on this rumor.

  3. I just looked at it for the first time, and I really like it – tomorrow I plan on “reading the pictures slowly,” as you said, Robin. p.s. – RSS feed is working for me now!

  4. Adam Sherland says:

    Hello all, I am excited to join the conversation this year as we look at these incredible books, and can’t wait to contrast the opinions and feedback on here with that of my knowledgeable and “out-spoken” third grade focus group. With that idea in mind, I love that Robin has brought up this little gem first, because while I love the illustrations, I at first wondered, as Robin suggested, if this is truly a book for children. The guidelines clearly state, “picture book for children” and I think that is an extremely important element to keep in mind. While I’m all for pushing the limits and recognizing exquisite art and storytelling, I really wonder why any group bestowing a children’s literature award would recognize, and place at the forefront of the industry a book that the primary audience won’t understand or benefit from.

    This was exactly the doubts that crossed my mind when when I first came across this book, and I was left wondering why Lane Smith had created another popular book that wasn’t really, in my opinion, created for children. YET, as I reread it, two, three times, my opinion began to shift. I think the thing I hadn’t at first appreciated was the way in which Smith uses the illustrations to really simplify and glorify the lives of an important generation of Americans. Furthermore, I think I realized that my definition of child was way too restrictive, as the criteria states that “children” covers the entire age range up to 14 (seeing as I say read the directions about 8 bazillion times a day to my students, you would have thought I would have gone through the rules a bit more carefully ). Now that I have this new found perspective I definitely feel this book merits staying on my list of possible contenders, and makes me excited to really look at it, and debate it further. Did anyone else have similar issues, am I over-thinking here, or missing something (both highly possible)?

  5. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Hmmm. I had never heard that before, but it makes sense to me. A committee looks at the nominated books so many times that it must be fun to notice things “hidden” in the illustrations. I think Lolly is right. It makes us feel smart.

  6. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    By the way, I read Grandpa Green to my second graders today. They liked it okay, but not one noticed that the little boy was collecting things his grandfather had misplaced. They were a little over the top with the gatefold and loved the idea of the topiary in general. The were annoyed, I might add, that there is a big tree blocking the elephant on that gatefold and wondered what it was doing there. There is a little bird on that spread that they wondered about too and they felt that the dragon didn’t belong in the life of the grandfather. Hmmm.
    It’s early in the year, so I wonder what their questions and observations will be when they sharpen their visual skills!

  7. I don’t think there is a single children’s book published in which children see it exactly as the adults see it. The fact that children do not notice all the details adults notice really is meaningless. Is this a children’s book? Absolutely! Is it an adult book as well? Absolutely! One of the many benefits of this book is that it allows children AND adults the opportunity to think and feel about the important folks in our lives. The fact that this book may lead to family conversations or conversations in school about our elders is frosting. This is a gem of a book and it will not surprise me at all to hear it announced early next year.

  8. I read this one at story time (preschool, ranging in age from 3-5) today. It was a big hit, but it turned into a Where’s Waldo of sorts. They definitely loved the artwork, though the meaning may have been lost on them. Not that this is a criticism of the book, mind you, but it was just something I noticed. I had the chance to give it a closer look and was really struck by the way that the green that is used throughout doesn’t feel samey… there is enough variety to keep it fresh, despite the fact that Smith is really only using variations on green. To my eyes the best spread is the war/cannon… wow.

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