Day: November 20, 2009

Grumpy Grandpa

Grumpy Grandpa by Heather Henson, illustrated by Ross MacDonald

A little boy talks about his grandpa who is always grumpy.  Every year he and his parents drive to spend two weeks on his grandpa’s farm.  The little boy has to be quiet and not disturb his grandpa.  He tries to stay out of grandpa’s way so that he isn’t yelled at like the TV or the dog, but it’s not so easy.  Every afternoon, after a nap, Grandpa leaves the farm alone.  The little boy wonders where he goes.  Then the next day, Grandpa takes the boy along.  They head to a boat on a pond with fishing poles.  Now he has to be really quiet and still.  Grumpy Grandpa just keeps getting grumpier.  The little boy decides to leave, forgetting he is in a boat.  Splash!  Now how will Grumpy Grandpa react to being tipped overboard?

So many picture books show grandparents as bread baking, snowy haired saints, but many children have grandparents who don’t naturally bond with young children.  The beauty of this picture book is that yes the grandfather is grumpy, but it turns out he has a great sense of humor and remembers being a boy himself.  Henson’s text is humorous and allows readers to see that Grandpa isn’t that grumpy even before the young boy understands it. 

MacDonald’s illustrations have a vintage feel.  Done in watercolor, they evoke picture books from the 50s. This works particularly well with the homey and timeless nature of the story.

As someone who had a rather grumpy grandma, I am happy to see a book that really shows what’s underneath the crusty exterior of some grandparents.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Muktar and the Camels

Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack

Muktar lives in a Somalian orphanage after his parents have died.  His parents had roamed Somalia with camels before the drought and war changed everything.  Now all Muktar has of his old life is a withered root that his father gave him and told him to use wisely.  Then one day, a man arrives with three camels loaded with books.  Muktar is asked to help unload the camels and as he does, he notices a wound on the foot of one camel.  The librarian is too busy to listen to his concerns, so Muktar creates a poultice with the root his father gave him.  By the time the librarian discovers the problem, the camel’s foot is better and Muktar has impressed him enough to offer him a job with the camels.

This book is based on the library service of the Kenya National Library Service which has camel convoys of books eight times a month that serve schools and orphanages in the outlying areas.  Muktar and his love of animals shines in this book.  His skill with camels is impressive as is his strength in the face of such overwhelming change in his life.  Graber’s text tells the story plainly, not dwelling too long on the loss but more on the present.  Mack’s illustrations, done in oils on canvas, show a land dried and hardened, but people who are surviving despite the obstacles.

Recommended as a window to another way of living, this book is appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.