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Gifts Of Rocks And Stones From Grandfathers

Fiona Lumbers' "Grandpa's Gift" and "Ojichan's Gift" by Chieri Uegaki and Genevieve Simms.

Myra here.

This July to September, we are doing a book-series marathon.

typorama 13

We are featuring books that fit the following deliberately-nebulous criteria:

  1. Books that are part of an ongoing series
  2. Themed stories: books that are technically not part of a series, but fit a specific theme – e.g. intergenerational stories, nature-themed stories
  3. Short story collections
  4. Narratives of a similar genre 
  5. Stories written by same author

Last Monday, I shared stories of grandmothers giving the gift of beauty. Today, I am glad to share stories of grandfathers who find beauty in rocks and stones.

Grandpa’s Gift [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Fiona Lumbers
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK (2021)
ISBN: 9781471166587 (ISBN10: 1471166589) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

It has been exactly “three weeks and four days” since a young boy moved to the crowded city from the “wide open spaces” of his previous home. His grandfather took his hand and promised him a surprise. It is not clear whether the grandfather has moved with the young boy or whether he has lived in the city all his life, but I like stories with gaps and spaces such as this one, allowing young readers to fill in the details with their own musings.

Grandfather took the young boy to this place filled with “unwanted and forgotten” objects – and together they found magic in the mundane; particularly in a “boring, grey stone” that seemed perfectly ordinary – that is, until Grandpa showed its unexpected beauty.

Similar to the stories shared last Monday, this one celebrates paying attention and breathing in beauty from the unnoticed and the discarded. I also like to take a moment here to highlight that the grandfather and the grandchild seemed to be coming from different races/ethnicity, and this is not the main theme/issue in the story, but simply taken as a matter-of-fact, which I found to be noteworthy.

Ojichan’s Gift [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Chieri Uegaki Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
Published by Kids Can Press (2019)
ISBN: 9781771389631 (ISBN10: 177138963X) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I was drawn to this book from the very first page, with a possibly-biracial family flying in the air to visit Ojichan’s garden, built especially for young Mayumi van Horton. 

This is an unusual garden, unlike others that are filled with flowers or fruits:

Ojichan had made the garden out of stones – big ones, little ones and ones in between.

There is quiet and deceptive simplicity in the story that permeates the pages, an affection and intimacy drawn from the work one does with one’s hands: day in, day out, year after year, requiring hard work, devotion, and one ear to the ground as Ojichan and Mayumi respond to nature’s whisperings.

Yet, this story is also about growth and loss and grief, done with a perfect writer-sleigh-of-hand that one does not notice it until it is before the reader, catching one unawares.

I was deeply moved by Mayumi’s gift to her Ojichan as a testament to all the years that they spent doing painstaking work in this beautiful garden that Ojichan has to leave behind. There is subtlety in this narrative that is often missing in mostly-maudlin grandparents’ stories. There is power in the spaces in between the beautiful rocks here that allow the reader to insert their own quiet meanderings. Definitely a story that needs to reach more readers – I hope it finds its way to you soon.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 91 out of target 100 (Chieri Uegaki is Japanese-Canadian)

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).

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