Review: Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake by Kate Klise

grammy lamby

Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise

Larry wasn’t very excited when his grandmother came to visit.  She invented a secret handshake for the two of them on the very first time she visited.  The three squeezes meant “I love you.”  His grandma also loved to talk and sew, and that’s what she did much of the time she spent at their house.  When they went to church, Grammy Lamby wore a big hat and sang louder than anyone else.  She even had big plans for trips they would take together when Larry was older.  But Larry didn’t want to go anywhere with Grammy Lamby.  The next time Grammy Lamby visited, a storm blew into town and tore a hole in their roof.  Grammy Lamby sprang into action, fixing and hammering.  It was a whole new grandma from Larry’s perspective.  And a whole new hero for him to admire.

The Klise sisters have created a winning picture book here.  The hesitance of a child with a relative their don’t see often is captured very cleverly here.  The way it is approached honors both of the people in the relationship:  Larry is cautious and overwhelmed and Grammy Lamby is friendly and trying very hard to be liked.  The use of an emergency to have the two of them come together works well, allowing Grammy to display her real skills and character.

The illustrations have a warmth to them that is wonderful.  They have small details that invite readers to linger a bit yet are large enough to work with a group. 

A great addition to story times about grandparents, this would also make a good present for any long-distance grandparent to give.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.

Review: The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

great cake mystery

The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrations by Iain McIntosh

The author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series has written his first children’s book.  This one too stars Precious Ramotswe and is the story of her very first mystery as a child in Botswana.  When her father tells her a favorite story about when a lion got into their village, he notices that she has several characteristics of a detective: she asks a lot of questions and she can tell when people are telling the truth.  So when food starts disappearing at Precious’ school, she gets involved in solving the mystery.  She is shocked when one of her friends accuses another boy of being the thief because he has sticky fingers, literally.  It makes her even more determined to figure out exactly who is stealing the food. 

Told in very simple prose, sometimes a bit too simple, this story has a certain charm about it.  The book begins in a rather stilted way thanks to the wording, but quickly moves on to a more natural cadence that works much better.  I am pleased to see a mystery set in Africa with a young female protagonist who manages to solve the mystery without any adult help.  Smith captures the differences between societies as well as the special setting of Botswana.

McIntosh’s illustrations are block prints done in a limited color palette of red, black and gray.  They have a quality about them that speaks to the setting clearly.  They have a delicate and yet unfinished quality that is very appealing.

This book for young readers has plenty of mystery, detective work and an appealing heroine.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.