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Hooray for Grandma!

Four new picture books celebrate the special place grandmothers have in their grandchildren’s lives. Being a new big sister’s much-needed ally, introducing a young child to the pleasures of gardening, getting serious about pretend play as a custodial grandparent, or nurturing a budding artist’s creative spark, grandmothers’ roles are vibrant and varied. Just like the ladies themselves.

wells_use your words sophie2A new baby in the house means an older sibling may need some extra TLC — and who knows that better than a wise grandmother? In Rosemary Wells’s Use Your Words, Sophie!, mouse-child Sophie welcomes her baby sister in Jellyfish language (“Jubbabubba”); she growls that she’s “too old for naps” in Hyena language (“Grabvjkloz!”). After she sings the “Baboon national anthem…as loud as she could possibly sing” and wakes the baby, Granny arrives on the scene, greets Sophie in Martian, and voilà! Sophie doesn’t feel the need to act out. Sophie’s special relationship with her granny comes across warmly in both text and pictures. (Viking, 2–5 years)

messner_up in the garden and down in the dirtKate Messner’s Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt brings an above-and-below perspective as a garden is transformed from early spring through late autumn. A child and her hardy gardener grandmother spend long hours at work and play tending the plants, while the preparation and maintenance of the soil are the responsibility of worms and insects. The harmonious relationships above and below ground, and between the two, emphasize the complexities of the garden ecosystem. Christopher Silas Neal’s stunning art teems with plant and animal life. (Chronicle, 5–8 years)

derby_sunday shoppingEvie, young narrator of Sally Derby’s cozy Sunday Shopping, and her grandmother browse through advertisements in the newspaper every Sunday night at bedtime. They pretend they’re visiting stores and discuss everything they’re “buying” and how they’ll enjoy each item. Shadra Strickland’s bright, breezy collage-style illustrations blend realistic portraiture with creative flights of fancy. Sharper emotions underlie the story — worry for Evie’s mother, away in the armed forces; constrained finances — but the joy Evie and Grandma take in each other’s company is reassuring. (Lee & Low, 5–8 years)

menchin_grandma in blue with redHow is a boy’s grandmother like a work of art? According to the hero of Grandma in Blue with Red Hat, “Grandma is beautiful. Grandma is different. Grandma is funny… There’s only one of her.” His offer to donate her to the museum is declined by the curator, so the budding artist stages his own one-man art show, depicting Grandma in a variety of styles and media. Scott Menchin’s uncomplicated text is matched by cartoonist Harry Bliss’s openhearted watercolors. Young art history students will enjoy embedded Picasso and Duchamp references; grandmas will be pleased to be honored as “one of a kind.” (Abrams, 5–8 years)

From the May 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

About Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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