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[Monday Reading] International Picturebook Titles That Portray Grandfathers Who Are Ill


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.


It has taken awhile before the elderly is portrayed in children’s books with care and sensitivity. It seems like showing old age or even sickness is anathema to children’s publishing years ago. Another evidence that picturebooks have come of age can be seen in these two international titles that depict grandfathers who are not hale and hearty, but are suffering from an illness – yet the grandfathers and their relationship with their grandchildren are shown with such depth and compassion.

fullsizerender-77Get Well Soon, Grandpa

Written by: An Swerts Illustrated by: Jenny Bakker
Published by: Clavis New Yorik, 2013. First published in Belgium and Holland by Clavis, 2012 ISBN: 1605371556 (ISBN13: 9781605371559)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Originally published in Belgium and Holland, this picturebook shows a young girl named Faye who usually stays over at her Grandfather’s for the night. Grandpa Bert makes pancakes for dinner and the most exquisite bacon and eggs for breakfast, and reads two bedtime stories at night: one scary and one funny so that Faye would have good dreams.


This time is a bit different, though, as Grandpa Bert collapsed on the floor after doing his morning shave – he apparently had a stroke (something which Faye found out much later) and Faye had to call her mother on the phone to let her know what is going on.


I like how Faye’s fears were appeased by her Mother and how the “stroke” was explained by the doctor by using a metaphor about a car that has stalled and tipped over in the middle of the road. While a bit on the text-heavy side, I fell in love with the art that was filled with bright colours, a striking contrast to the greyness of illness.


What happened to Grandpa Bert afterwards, I shall leave for you to discover. I find that this book showed a very sensitive portrayal of a relationship between grandparent and grandchild that is infused with so much warmth and poignancy.

Grandpa’s Guardian Angelfullsizerender-95

Written and Illustrated by: Jutta Bauer
Published by: Walker Books, 2005. First Published in Germany in 2001 ISBN: 0763627437 (ISBN13: 9780763627430)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

While the first book was aww-inducing in its sweetness, there are a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this picturebook – which seemed incongruous in the beginning given that the very first page shows the grandfather on a hospital bed:


Despite the grandfather’s evident poor health, he would share stories about how nothing could possibly hurt him. The images show that his good fortune may actually be attributed by the reader to his guardian angel who ensures that he is safe from any kind of danger.


The guardian angel is never alluded to in the text – but is clearly seen in the images – once again showing the sophistication of this picturebook that provides that subtle interplay between art and text.


Yet, one could also glean that it is not always fun – the comical has its tragic aspects too, something which Jutta Bauer used to her full advantage – allusions to the war can be seen in the image above, which may be explained by the fact that this book was originally published in Germany.


I find that the twist in the end was also brilliant. There is a quiet power in this picturebook, its simplicity magnified by the simple yet immensely moving art as can be seen in the image above. Needless to say, these are two picturebooks you need to find and add to your shelves.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

10 comments on “[Monday Reading] International Picturebook Titles That Portray Grandfathers Who Are Ill

  1. You’re right that these are two great looking picture books. As a special bonus, I know what I am making for breakfast tomorrow. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Get Well Soon, Grandpa! sounds like a great children’s book, and I love the illustrations.

    My It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Both of these sound like great books. Some young readers will be able to relate to having a sick grandparent so these seem like important books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These books are really important for libraries to have on hand for readers. Helps them make some sense out of tough topics. I’ll pass these titles on to our librarian.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pussreboots

    Grandpa’s First Angel looks interesting. I’m back from my trip. It didn’t turn out as planned but we had fun. Come see what we did and what I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These are both beautiful. I’m glad that we’re getting more international picture books in translation here, because other countries are so much more willing to deal with topics like death, illness and aging. North American publishers, at least the mainstream ones, seem to panic at the thought of producing anything that isn’t going to be a guaranteed mega hit, and there’s a very pervasive cultural feeling of needing to “protect” children, with their “impressionable” minds, from anything that might upset them – in other words, lying to them, and pretending that the world is always perfect and always happy and that bad things never happen. Of course the reality is that life isn’t always perfect – beloved grandparents often get sick, and eventually they all die, and pretending that this doesn’t happen isn’t helping kids at all, but having sensitive books that deal with the subject really can help!

    Ha, sorry for the long comment, you’ve just really touched on something that I totally agree with, and wish we could change here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jane, I feel the exact same way. I just had this conversation a few days ago with friends, since I strongly feel that kids are more resilient than we think. And presenting only feel-good stories do not do their spirit justice, nor can we effectively show themes about empowerment without necessarily showing the roots of injustice that necessitate such strong feelings to begin with. The light and the dark go together, much as we like it or not. It simply is.


  7. These both look like sweet (and excellent!) book!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love both of these books already. Unfortunately, I am going to have to wait for them, since neither are available in my library. The first book reminded me of Tomie dePaola’s First One Foot and Then the Other. After my mother’s brain injury, this was one of the books I used with her to learn to read again. It became a favourite of hers and also mine. We also read Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs.
    Now that I am about to become a grandmother, and was lucky enough to have connections with my own grandparents, I am even more interested in books that show these relationships.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Favourite Titles Across GatheringBooks’ 2017 Reading Themes – Gathering Books

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