________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 06 . . . . October 08, 2010


Grandma's Gloves.

Cecil Castellucci. Illustrated by Julia Denos.
Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2010.
24 pp., hardcover, $19.00.
ISBN 978-0-7636-3168-0.

Subject Headings:

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**** /4


"Mama," I ask, "can we grow a garden of our own?"

"Yes," Mama says. "But I don't know much about gardening." Then she smiles as she puts her hands out in front of her and lets me put Grandma's gloves on them.

"You can help me," I say, "to talk to the roses, scold the succulents, and laugh with the birds-of-paradise."

I will teach Mama everything I know.

A grandparent's influence on a young child's life can be an important factor in the child's development. A lot of teaching and role modelling occurs, producing effects that can last a lifetime.

     But just as children grow up and become older, so do the grandparents who sometimes experience age-related cognitive and other health problems before they die. Explaining these changes and the process of life to young children is often difficult, but picture books can help put a positive perspective on the inevitable.

internal art     Grandma's Gloves is a tender story by former Montrealer (and now Los Angeles resident) Cecil Castellucci about the bond between grandparent and grandchild. Grandma's house is a place of wonderment for a little girl. Grandma works magic in her flower garden, bakes secret cookies and showers her granddaughter with water and love. She shows some signs of dementia, but the little girl is tolerant of Grandma's occasional repetitions.

     One day, Grandma gets sick and is hospitalized. When the little girl visits, she finds a different person, one who has forgotten her family and can't speak English any more. But she hasn't forgotten to water the plants on her windowsill, an action which gives the little girl heart.

     But finally, Grandma dies. The child's grief is not relieved by the promise of some special objects from Grandma's house. What she wants is Grandma and life the way it was. When she spies Grandma's gardening gloves, she realizes how she can overcome her sadness and keep Grandma alive in her memory. She decides to emulate Grandma by growing a garden, and for good measure, she offers to teach her mother so that she, too, can keep Grandma's memory close as well.

     Gently told, the text is complemented by gentle pencil and watercolour illustrations by Julia Denos. Grandma's house is shown full of light; the little girl's love is expressed with a lift of her foot as Grandma wraps her in "her fleshy arms." Denos provides definition to the people and surrounding objects but uses faint colours and washes effectively to blur the unimportant. The plants, symbolizing life, hope and growth, are defiantly green.

     Other books that help a child accept the cycle of life include The Auction by Jan Andrews, Waiting for the Whales by Cheryl MacFarlane and Pig in the Middle by Sally Fitz-Gibbon. Grandma's Gloves will join this list of recommended books about the power of love over sadness.

Highly Recommended.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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