special gift for grammy

A Special Gift for Grammy by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

Hunter collected a big pile of stones and put them on his grandmother’s porch.  When his father and grandmother ask him what she is meant to do with them, Hunter replied, “What everyone does with a pile of stones.”  Hunter turned out to be right.  Everyone who saw the stack of stones knew just how to use one or more of them.  The postal carrier used one to weigh down the mail on a breezy day.  Workmen used them as hammers or weights.  They are used to stop wheels from rolling and show people what way to turn.  When Hunter returned only six little stones were left.  But this time it’s Grammy who knows just what to do with them.

I have one big issue with this book: the title.  It does very little to convey the charm that is inside this book.  I love the idea of a pile of stones that everyone borrows from and uses.  Then the end of the book is intensely satisfying.  I must admit though that with the uninteresting title, I almost passed on this book, expecting it to be a book about the death of a grandparent or a saccharine poem about familial love.  Instead it is a well-designed look at community, family and connections.  I’d much rather have had the title reference the stone pile or stones or rocks. 

The illustrations are done in collage, acrylic and pencil.  They have gorgeous deep colors, combined with lots of texture from the collage.  The collage is done in such a subtle way that it is almost invisible, just adding a level of texture and pattern to the paintings. 

This book truly is a special gift, but one that could use a new title.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins Publishers.