We baked cookies in the kitchen
and made a big mess,
but you said it was worth it
because they tasted the best.
Dear Grandma consists of a letter being written by a little girl to her grandmother. In the letter, Darly*initially relates the contents of a dream she had in which the grandmother had come over to play and the two of them had gone outside to pick flowers and look for ladybugs before returning to bake cookies. Because the dream’s contents remind Darly how much she has been missing her grandmother, her letter invites Grandma to visit so that the pair can again enjoy doing things together. Among the child/grandparent activities that Darly misses are Grandma’s cuddles, their reading books together, playing dress-up, and her making breakfast for her grandmother. The book concludes with Darly about to deposit the letter in the family’s rural mailbox, with the flag up indicating outgoing mail.
[*In Dear Grandma, the letter writer is not named in the text; however, if young readers have encountered any of the other books in the series, Darly’s Adventure to Nowhere, Darly’s Trip to the Moon, Darly and the Dragon and Darly’s Adventure in the Garden, they will immediately recognize her as being Darly.]
Dear Grandma is very much a book for our pandemic times. Though the reason for Darly’s grandmother’s infrequent visits seems to be due to her living “so far away”, today’s pandemic restrictions have limited many grandparent/grandchild interactions to electronic platforms like FaceTime and Zoom. Author Stephanie Horman adds a “real-child” element by having Darly remind her grandmother that, when she comes to visit, “...maybe you could bring me a treat?” And just in case Grandma doesn’t recall, Darly nudges, “I like chocolate and ice cream and anything sweet.” The older end of the book’s audience might be encouraged to explore some reasons why they think Darly said, “...when you are here, I don’t feel so alone.”
Horman’s brief text consists of rhyming couplets with one couplet appearing on each double-page spread that has been created by her sister Christine Walker who uses pen and ink and watercolor as her illustration media. Each spread features Darly, a cartoon-like little girl, accompanied by objects connected to the pages’ text. For instance, when Horman writes,
In the morning I would cook you
bacon eggs and some toast.
or big fluffy pancakes if you
like those the most.
Walker shows Darly seated atop a stack of pancakes while holding an egg-filled frying pan, with a bottle of syrup seen nearby. In the last spread, Walker adds a nice touch by visually recapping parts of the story by including objects, such as cookies, that had previously appeared in the book.
Dear Grandma effectively captures the special relationships that exist between children and their grandparents. Though Darly’s grandmother is living, the contents of Dear Grandma could also be used in grief settings as a reminder to recall the many happy times shared in the past.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he misses his grandchildren and his yet-to-be-seen in person six-month-old great grandson, William.