Here Comes Grandma by Janet Lord (Henry Holt, 2005) is designed to excite the youngest children, toddlers included, about grandma’s upcoming visit. Grandma posts a letter to her grandchild and the successive pages show her on her way via different modes of transportation. She is not a passive passenger—this grandmother zips over hills on her bike, leaps onto her horse, and whooshes down the mountain on skis. The active verbs and bright, colorful pictures heighten the anticipation, along with the refrain of “here comes Grandma!” And at the very end “…we’ll whirl and twirl, and laugh and sing, and I’ll give you a great big hug!”
This little book sparks memories for me of our family’s long journeys to visit my grandparents, although we merely sat in airplanes—hopscotching our way across the world, over 10,000 miles in each direction. But there was much excitement upon finally hugging both sets of grandparents with a gap of two or three years between visits.
The illustrations in Here Comes Grandma! by Janet’s sister, Julie Paschkis, are often described as resembling folk art. With her cozy round shape, headscarf and brightly patterned clothing this grandmother reminds me of a Russian matryoshka doll, those with smaller dolls nested within. The pictures also resemble the Norwegian craft of rosemaling—sprinkled all over my home state of Minnesota.
Julie Paschkis has illustrated other beautiful children’s books that I consider personal favorites, such as Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian and Bottle Houses: The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey.
Everyone would enjoy a peek at Julie’s website and blog, but most definitely illustrators—it overflows with paintings, posters, and textiles, in addition to more truly stunning children’s books. Many showcase the lives of well-known artists or beautiful collections of poetry for kids. I’m excited to read more—including another intergenerational story by Janet Lord, Albert the Fix-It Man, and Apple Cake, an illustrated recipe handed down from their great-grandmother. As Julie so aptly says, “…the cake carries love through time.” In my next life I want to be as talented and creative as Julie Paschkis.
Here Comes Grandma is geared to children under five and the text is brief, but one message comes through loud and clear with regards to older adults: most are not simply passive observers. On one page, despite Grandma’s round shape she sports a red and white polka-dot swimsuit and flippers as she glides through the ocean. The grandparents of children under five will often be in their fifties, if not younger, but even those over seventy frequently travel and pursue active hobbies, work and volunteer jobs. In addition, in his book The Longevity Revolution: the Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life, Dr. Robert N. Butler reported that “…over half of the ‘oldest-old,’ the eighty-five-plus group, report no significant physical disability whatsoever. They can go about their everyday activities without any personal assistance.” So let’s chat with kids about what their grandparents and great-grandparents enjoy doing and reinforce the message of active engagement in life over the years.