[Monday Reading] Old Pig, Grandma’s Gloves, Nana Upstairs and Downstairs – A Celebration of Grandparents’ Love

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

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[Photo Journal/ A-Z Photo Story Challenge] G is for Gardens by the Bay Singapore

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[Poetry Friday] When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

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Coming of Age as an Experience of Love in Literature

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[BHE 66] Book Hunting in Bratislava and Coffee Date with Slovakian Children’s Book Author

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As we continue with our current bimonthly theme on Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age, here are three beautiful picture books that deal with the loss of a grandparent and how these thoughtful grandchildren honoured their lives, allowing their grandmother’s legacy to live on through them.

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We are also joining Nonfiction Monday today with the first book (Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs) being autobiographical in nature. Our lovely host this week is Perogies & Gyoza who has her Nonfiction Monday Round-Up posted extremely early today. Thank you for this! Do drop by Perogyo’s site for more Nonfiction-delight!

IMG_8393Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs

Story and Illustrations ByTomie dePaola
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998, 1973
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Tommy is a four year old boy who had both a grandmother and great-grandmother whom he loved very much.

He and his family would go to visit every Sunday afternoon. His grandmother always seemed to be standing by the big black stove in the kitchen.

His great grandmother was always in bed upstairs because she was ninety-four years old. So Tommy called them Nana Downstairs and Nana Upstairs.

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In the Author’s Note found at the back of the book, Tomie explained that this book is based from his own life when he was growing up as a young boy. I love how this book captured fleeting moments packed in candy mints shared with white-haired ladies, or being tied to a chair (so that great-grandmother does not fall off) as a special adventure, and squinting one’s eyes tight to see Little People with a red-feathered hat.

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There is a void left with the death of Nana Upstairs (and eventually Nana Downstairs too), but Mother explained that they would always remain in little Tommy’s memory. This book is not overly-sentimental in the least, the subtlety captured in gently-falling-stars and kisses sent down from the heavens. A must-have.

For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, here is a weblink that includes guidelines and questions for philosophical discussion with students, created by TeachingChildrenPhilosophy.org.

IMG_8256Grandma’s Gloves

Story By: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrated by: Julia Denos
PublisherCandlewick Press, 2010
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

“Grandma has a way with flowers. She is always on her knees in the dirt, with her gloves on, talking to her roses, scolding the succulents, and laughing with the birds-of-paradise. Her whole house is filled with plants, and outside, her small yard is full of blossoms.”

This is a beautiful, earthy book that magnifies sensations: from the coffee smell of grandmother, to the taste of jasmine tea and homemade doughnuts, and the feel of sprinkling water from a hose.

This is the first book I’ve read of Cecil Castellucci and Julia Denos and I am absolutely charmed. The soft-pastel-sketchy illustrations of Denos matched by the subtlety of Castellucci’s text would make this a well-loved book in most household.

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While it defies the 300-word-limit convention in most picture books of late, the narrative has an exquisite, lyrical taste to it that begs to be read aloud. It also speaks quietly of grief that is shared among family members felt through a squeeze in one’s shoulders; the well-meaning food provided by neighbours, friends and strangers; and the nostalgic conversations about Grandmother who passed away.

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No one seems to look twice at the plants with the yellow leaves, except for me. I slip Grandma’s gloves on and pull away the yellow leaves like Grandma used to do, and then I water the plants and the flowers that everyone else has forgotten.

Those were the lines that made me catch my breath. This sensitive young girl knew exactly what would make her Grandmother smile and she did it without hesitation – while the grown-ups deal with adult stuff. Using Grandma’s gloves, this little girl gently nurtured the plants that filled her Grandmother’s waking moment.

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For teachers who wish to make use of their book in their classroom, here is an amazing Prezi presentation created by Nancy Stukenborg that you may want to check out.

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Story ByMargaret Wild
Pictures byRon Brooks
PublisherAllen & Unwin, First published in 1995. This edition published in 2009
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I don’t think I’ve read any of Margaret Wild’s books that I did not love. Old Pig is no exception, my heart breaking in little pieces here and there as I read through the gentle narrative. While it reminded me a little bit of Pete and Pickles as recommended by Carrie Gelson of There’s a Book for That, probably because of the pig protagonist, this book shares the love between Grandmother Pig (named Old Pig) and Granddaughter who “had lived together for a long, long time.”

The first few pages documented the many things that Old Pig and Granddaughter did together – they seem to have a clockwork system firmly established: one sweeps while the other dusts, one makes the beds while the other hangs up the washing, one does breakfast while the other prepares lunch, and both would cook dinner.

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But one day, the routine is interrupted because Old Pig is too tired to rise up from her bed to eat breakfast. That day, Granddaughter did all the chores on her own:

“She tried to whistle while she worked, but all she could manage was a lonely little ‘oink.'”

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It is these tiny little things of everyday life that Margaret Wild so effectively captures in her narrative that unfailingly touches the reader’s heart. When Old Pig was well enough the next day, she left the house so that she can do her “preparations” – she returned all her books to the library, paid the bills, closed her bank account, and handed her remaining money to Granddaughter.

When she got home she tucked the rest of her money into Granddaughter’s purse. 

‘Keep it safe,’ she said, ‘and use it wisely.’

‘I will,’ said Granddaughter. She tried to smile but her mouth wobbled, and Old Pig said, ‘There, there, no tears.’

‘I promise,’ said Granddaughter, but it was the hardest promise she’d ever had to make.

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I made my eleven year old daughter read this book and like me, she could not help but shed a few tears on certain parts of the story. Particularly when Old Pig decided, after all her preparations are neatly tied up, that she wanted to feast. Not on food, no, but on the sights, sounds, smells of “the trees, the flowers, the sky – on everything.”

Together, Old Pig and Granddaughter marveled at the glittering light on the leaves, smiled at the clouds gathering like gossips in the sky, sniffed at the rich moist smell of the earth, and looked closely at the summer house reflected in the lake. Such a marvel, everything is, if one really stops to just look, listen, and feel as Old Pig reminds us.

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This beautiful book is such a gift – how the story ends, I shall leave for you my dear book-loving friends to discover. For teachers who wish to make use of this in the classroom, you may want to check out this Q and A done with Margaret Wild by Tania McCartney of Kids-BookReview. And here is a downloadable pdf resource created by education.nt.gov.au which includes possible activities that can be done with students.

Currently Reading…

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I have gone back to reading George R R Martin’s A Storm of Swords. After several weeks of not reading this book, I was able to pick up where I left off, and I am once again drowning myself in this fantasy world before I go to bed each night. George R R Martin is such a masterful storyteller. I stay up until 2 in the morning just reading through the book – it’s been awhile since I simply sank my teeth into the pages of a book, and I am glad it has happened again. I guess what draws me to the book now is that much of what I am reading have not yet been included in the HBO TV Series, so it’s like being ahead of everyone else who are just watching the tv show. I get scared and feel the pounding of the drums and sense the build-up of each twist and turn of the narrative. Can’t get enough of it.

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Old Pig: Shortlisted, Picture Book of the Year, Children’s Book Council Awards 1996; Shortlisted, Picture Book Division, ACT Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL) Awards 1998; Shortlisted, Picture Storybook, Young Australians’ Best Book Awards (YABBA) 1997; Commended, Ashton Scholastic Award for Best Designed Children’s Book 1996 (Allen and Unwin)

AWB Reading Challenge Update: (36) 35

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Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 168/169/170 (150)

9 Comments on [Monday Reading] Old Pig, Grandma’s Gloves, Nana Upstairs and Downstairs – A Celebration of Grandparents’ Love

  1. I am surprised I hadn’t read any of Tomie dePaola’s books before. I’m looking forward to what you guys think of Eleanor & Park!

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  2. Thanks for such an interesting post.

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  3. Thanks for participating in NF Monday! I love the illustration of the kid and great grandmother tied to chairs!

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  4. Wow, wow, wow. This is a powerful set of books, Myra – something rich and comforting at each level. So many favorites of mine in here – Dog Heaven being a particular favorite.

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  5. Lovely books again, Myra. I’ve had & Used Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs for a long time, but the others are new to me. Like Harry & Hopper, I know I’ll love them. Thank you!

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  6. I love Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, and hadn’t heard of the other two–will definitely check them out. Thanks also for the Prezi link–will pass that along to our school guidance counselor.

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  7. I’ve loved Tomie DePaola for a long time but am unfamiliar with this one. What a great addition to your topical list. Thanks for the recommendation.
    Tammy
    Apples with Many Seeds

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  8. Wow, wow, and double wow. So many great books! Okay, one more wow!

    Like

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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  3. [Saturday Reads] My Top Forty (or so) Picturebooks and Graphic Novels (Part 3 of 3) – Gathering Books

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