We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year. Our reading theme for March/April: Grey & Golden, Young & Fleeting – Ruminations on Mortality and Transient Lives.
I knew when I saw this book being shared in the kidlitosphere that I will have to hunt this down in our libraries. I am glad to have finally gotten hold of it and it’s perfect for our current reading theme as we celebrate grandparents. This is definitely one grandfather who changed the course of history.
I like picture book biographies that are told from altered perspectives – as viewed by family members (My Uncle Emily, The Extraordinary Mark Twain) or neighbors (Emily) or even pet cats (Minette’s Feast). In this story, Arun Gandhi recounts an episode in his life when he was twelve years old, particularly when he lived on the Sevagram ashram with his grandfather, the great Mahatma, where he stayed for two years.
Arun spoke of his quiet resentment about having to share his grandfather with hundreds of people. While on the one hand, he recognizes that his grandfather is an important man with many things to attend to, he also longs to have private moments with Grandfather without an aide, official, or follower around.
I particularly enjoyed how this book touched on anger-management and self-regulation issues as seen through a young boy’s point-of-view, making the story even more accessible, rather than merely a retelling of a great man’s life. Arun, with his impulsive, easy-to-anger disposition is afraid that he would not live up to the Gandhi name and that he would never grow up to be like his grandfather who lived his entire life speaking about peace and kindness.
When Arun flared up over a soccer incident, he ran to his Grandfather’s hut and cried out to his Bapuji. Their conversation moved me like no other, as Grandfather spoke about how anger can both cut and strike like a lightning or be transformed and illuminate, turning darkness into light. This notion of channeled anger, bringing about an enlightened transformation, is presented in such a way that even very young kids can sense its truth and beauty.
I also enjoyed reading the Authors’ Note as Bethany Hegedus wrote about what inspired her to write this story and the many email conversations she had with Arun Gandhi as they crafted this story together – along with their own narratives of pain and healing. Evan Turk’s artwork was described in the book as “rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea, and tin foil.” As can be seen in the photographed pages I shared here, it is visual art at its finest – one that begs to be held and marveled at.
For teachers who wish to use this book in the classroom, here is a seven-paged downloadable PDF file created by Myra Zarnowski, a professor in the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at Queens College, CUNY for Simon & Schuster. Here is the official website of the picture book filled with information on book tours, conversations, and interviews the authors and illustrator had about the book.
Grandfather Gandhi written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014. Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.