Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Picture Books - Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

It's Day 4 of our 30 Days of Picture Books series. Today's pick is a title that I haven't read with Sprout - yet. I know, that's a little unusual for me. But this book honestly gets me so emotional that I'm barely able to read it on my own without crying, so I'm not sure how I'd ever get through reading it aloud. My husband bought it for me last Christmas, and it's a treasured part of my own collection that will, someday, be shared with Sprout.

But I wanted to share Lane Smith's Grandpa Green with you, dear reader, because it's the perfect book for Veteran's Day. The story is poignant and lyrical, laced with the hints of memories shared and stories long past. Narrated by his great-grandson, the book tells of the story of a young boy who grew up on a farm, having adventures and living an everyday life (complete with chicken pox). The boy became a man who wanted to study horticulture, but a war got in his way; instead he went to France, fell in love, got married, had a family. The man grew old, and started to forget things - luckily he found a way to blend his memories into his landscape, and keep the past alive.

My description cannot in any way do this book justice, because the text and Smith's winsome illustrations blend together to create the entire experience of the story. (It won a Caldecott Honor - need I say more about the absolutely breathtaking nature of this pictures?) We watch Grandpa Green's grandson as he wends his way through the garden, narrating the events of his great-grandpa's life in the manner of one who has heard the stories all his life. The intensity of familial feeling permeates the story, and we feel what the boy feels - by the end, you'll love Grandpa Green just as much as our hero does.

Smith leaves the door open for all sorts of discussions at the end of this: talking about aging, family history, relationships, and the fragile nature of memory. Kids will draw their own conclusions about the story's themes, as will adults, but one thing is clear: this is an homage to remembrance, to honoring the lives and sacrifices of those who came before. And that makes it the perfect choice for today: Veteran's Day, when we stop to remember our freedom, and the price at which it comes.

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