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Review of Grandfather Gandhi

gandhi_grandfather gandhiGrandfather Gandhi
by Arun Gandhi and Bethany 
Hegedus; illus. by Evan Turk
Primary    Atheneum    48 pp.
3/14    978-1-4424-2365-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5082-0    $10.99

A visit to a grandfather’s home in another country can have its ups and downs even in an ordinary family. But Arun faces some special challenges because his grandfather is Mahatma Gandhi. It’s hard enough to go from his comfortable home in 1945 South Africa, where he enjoys watching John Wayne movies and playing cops and robbers with his friends, to the quiet village of Sevagram, India, where his grandfather lives simply, surrounded by 350 followers who seek to follow the Mahatma’s example. Arun, who gets fidgety during prayers and who angers easily while playing soccer with village children, feels he will never live up to the Gandhi name. After he confides this to his grandfather, Gandhi tells Arun that he, too, often feels anger but that he has learned to channel it for good, just as electricity can destroy or give light. Unusual for its child-centered and intimate portrait of Gandhi (we learn, for example, that he smelled like peanut oil), the graceful narrative is nearly outdone by the vivid mixed-media illustrations, rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea, and tinfoil. The cotton yarn, handspun on an Indian book charkha, gives the pictures such a three-dimensional look that one feels as though it could be plucked right off Gandhi’s spinning wheel. But it’s more than just an attractive effect — the yarn becomes a visual metaphor for anger channeled into light.

From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kathleen T. Horning About Kathleen T. Horning

Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches a popular online course for ALSC on the history of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

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