Books Into the Wild: Artists and Rebels It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] The Wildness of Old Age and (Lost and) Found Memories in 2016 Picturebooks


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

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 (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). 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.


One of the things I love best about our current reading theme is how we are able to somewhat tweak the books that manage to find us to fit into our reading themes. While we did have a current reading theme devoted to the elderly (see our Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting: Ruminations on Mortality and Transient Lives theme last year), I was just so taken by these three recently-published picturebooks that I know I just had to feature them to show the wildness of old age, as well as the vagaries of lost and found memories.

img_7282Don’t Call Me Grandma

Written by: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Illustrated by: Elizabeth Zunon
Published by: Carolrhoda Books, 2016 ISBN: 1467742082 (ISBN13: 9781467742085)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

There have been quite a few beautifully-crafted grandparent-themed picturebooks fairly recently. There’s Last Stop on Market Street which won the Newbery, Nana in the City, and Mango Abuela and Me just to cite a few. Don’t Call me Grandma, however, introduces the reader to a different kind of grandmother: prickly, fierce and formidable.


She is very particular with the littlest of things – and she definitely is not your cuddly, cookie-baking, indulgent-to-the-point-of-no-return type of grandmother who gives out hugs and kisses like chocolate-covered candies during Halloween. She also sips her ostensibly-alcoholic beverage whereby “One spider glassful lasts all day.”


When asked why she drinks it, she turns away and talks mysteriously about a “broken heart.” Everything about this grandmother speaks to me. She has such a commanding air about her, that I find myself wondering what could have broken the heart of such a formidable woman. What wild memories need to be quenched by a sip-ful of what she calls “heart medicine.” 


I am heartened that we have gone past predictable stories that portray only one kind of narrative, particularly when it comes to characterizing the elderly. This is one unforgettable story that would definitely make the reader sit up and take notice. Great-Grandmother Nell’s personality shines through the pages.

What A Beautiful Morningimg_7287

Written by: Arthur A. Levine Illustrated by: Katie Kath
Published by: Running Press Kids 2016 ISBN: 0762459069 (ISBN13: 9780762459063)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

If Great Grandmother Nell is plagued by wild memories that break her heart, the grandfather in this story seemed to have lived such a full and joyful life that each day is a cause for song and celebration, especially when shared with young Noah and Grandma (who is clearly not a morning person).


However, as the story gradually unravels, one notices the frayed edges of Grandpa’s memory that is slowly fading away to the point of non-recognition of things that are customary and familiar.


Sometimes it could be as simple as what the planned activity would be for the day, but on bad days, he wouldn’t even recognize young Noah.


Very few picturebooks manage to be both poignant and hopeful at the same time. While there is mourning here for memories lost and gone, there is such joy and love and optimism that somehow make things a bit manageable, if not better. Yet, it is not blind optimism or even false hope, but a simple truth that perhaps routines would need to be readjusted, expectations changed, and that songs can still be sung for as long as it “would last.”

The Lines On Nana’s Faceimg_7295

Written and Illustrated bySimona Ciraolo
Published by: Flying Eye Books, 2016 ISBN: 1909263982 (ISBN13: 9781909263987)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

I deliberately saved the best for last. I first learned of Simona Ciraolo with her Hug Me which I also thoroughly enjoyed. When I saw that she has other picturebooks, I immediately ordered them for my current research project. This is one of them.


As you can see in the image above, there is such dynamism and movement in Ciraolo’s illustrations, one can feel the fluttering of the leaves; and just look at the raised leg of this young, inquisitive, vibrant one. Nana is celebrating her birthday and the whole family is coming to spend time together.


While waiting for the festivities to begin, this young one quizzes Nana about the lines in her face. Nana noted that she does not mind them as each one tells a specific story, a beautiful memory that she keeps close to her heart, such as a picnic in the seaside:


… or the first time she said goodbye. This book is a testament to how such a seemingly-simple narrative can prove to be immensely powerful, and how wild memories can eventually be tamed and found on one’s face. This is a book that you will definitely have to find and share with loved ones.

8 comments on “[Monday Reading] The Wildness of Old Age and (Lost and) Found Memories in 2016 Picturebooks

  1. Now you have me feeling sad that my daughter is so far from her grandparents and at the same time thankful that we have folks who step into those roles when we are overseas. Having a variety of books about the topic helps to ensure that everyone can identify with something.


  2. I just got What A Beautiful Morning from my library, and now hope they have the other two you’ve shared, too. Being a grandmother is the loveliest thing, Myra. I’m always glad to see some grandmother books!


  3. I’m hoping to be a grandmother soon Myra and so I’ve been thinking about all the grandparent books I know. Thanks for these to add to my list.


  4. I grew up with very reserved, almost distant grandparents, which was simply their cultural expectations. I remember being so frustrated as a child because the grandparents in books and movies were always the same – baking cookies, playing horsey, having tea parties – and my grandparents were nothing like that! So glad to see more variety coming into the genre! There are many different ways to show love and be a good grandparent.


  5. I love this focus on grandparents! Thank you for sharing, and happy reading! 🙂


  6. Pingback: [Monday Reading] Love for Books and the Sound of Silence in NPR’s Best Picture Books of 2016 – Gathering Books

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