Reading for Grandparents

Recommended Reading for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A few titles are out of print, but should be readily available for purchase online, www.amazon.com or at your local library.

Ages 3 and up

Old Bob’s Brown Bear
Daly, Niki (2002, Farrar Straus Giroux)
Old Bob seems a bit disappointed in the teddy bear Emma’s Gran gives him for his birthday, even though he claims he’s always wanted one. Then Emma plays with the bear and sleeps with him and spills juice on him and gives him baths, until he’s worn and fuzzy from her love—just the way Old Bob likes him!

Abuela
Dorros, Arthur (1991, Dutton)
Illustrated by Elsa Kleven.

Laced with Spanish phrases, this colorful adventure shows how a little girl and her grandmother might spend their day together if, instead of taking the bus, they could fly like birds around New York City.

Lucky Pennies and Hot Chocolate
Shields, Carol Diggory (2000, Dutton)
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata.

Whimsical watercolor illustrations and a twist of an ending add zest to this amiable story that follows a young boy and his grandfather through a weekend of finding lucky pennies, making peanut-butter sandwiches, and generally enjoying one another’s company.

Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear
Bodecker, N.M. (1998, McElderry)
Illustrated by Erik Blegvad.

The division of labor is definitely not equal in an elderly couple’s marriage, as Mary does all the chores needed to get the house and garden ready for winter, while her husband sits on his duff and issues orders. But, at the end of this bouncy rhyme, a fed-up Mary comically gives the lazybones what he deserves.

Grandmother and I and Grandfather and I
Buckley, Helen E. Grandmother and I and Grandfather and I (1994, Lothrop)
Illustrated by Jan Ormerod.

In each book, a child offers a gentle portrait of the characteristic that, in his or her mind, sets the grandparent apart from the rest of the family. For the little girl, it is her grandmother’s lap, comforting and secure. For the little boy it is the unhurried walks he takes with his grandfather, during which the two stop to appreciate nature and each other.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
Fox, Mem (1989, Kane Miller)
Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

After a preschooler hears that his best friend at the nursing home has lost her memory, he asks his other friends there to tell him exactly what a memory is so he can help her find it. The lilting text and spirited watercolor illustrations playfully reflect a young child’s sensibilities.

When I am Old with You
Johnson, Angela (1990, Orchard)
Illustrated by David Soman.

Eating bacon for breakfast on the porch, fishing, playing cards under the tree “till the lightning bugs shine” are just a few of the activities the young African-American narrator imagines doing with his grandpa when they are old together. Fortunately, as the illustrations show, they don’t have to be the same age to share in these and other happy activities.

Our Granny.
Wild, Margaret (1994, Ticknor & Fields)
Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

The child narrators leads an exuberant celebration of the many different types of grannies, especially their own, who has a “wobbly bottom,” wears a “funny bathing suit,” marches in demonstrations, and is loved a lot by her grandchildren.

Ages 4 and up

By the Dawn’s Early Light
Ackerman, Karen (1994, Macmillan)
Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
A grandmother feeds dinner to her two grandchildren, helps them with their homework, and puts them to bed while their mom works the graveyard shift at a factory in this realistic child’s view of a difficult situation.

Darcy and Gran Don’t Like Babies
Cutler, Jane (1993, Scholastic)
Illustrated by Susannah Ryan
No one else but Gran seems to share Darcy’s disgust for her new brother and the fuss he causes. But, after the two vent their frustrations about babies during a trip to the park, they decide that maybe deep down they like Darcy’s brother after all.

Now One Foot, Now the Other
DePaola, Tomie (1980, Putnam)
Bob taught his grandson Bobby how to walk, played blocks with him, told him stories; thus it only seems fitting that, when Bob is immobilized by a stroke, Bobby should do the same for him. A touching, believable account of a special relationship.

Loop the Loop
Dugan, Barbara (1992, Greenwillow)
Illustrated by James Stevenson.
A friendship develops between a little girl and her wheelchair-bound elderly neighbor, a friendship that endures even when the neighbor breaks her hip and must move to a nursing home. Expressive cartoon sketches reflect the wit and spirit of this “magnificent” woman.

Emma
Kesselman, Wendy (1980, Dell Publishing)
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

Based on the life of Emma Stern and illustrated in the style of her paintings, this inspiring story profiles a woman who begins a prolific painting career at age seventy-two, covering her walls with images of the people and places she loves.

The Old Woman Who Named Things
Rylant, Cynthia (1996, Harcourt)
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown.
Naming represents emotional attachment in this moving story of a woman who, having outlived all her friends, gives names only to her car, house, and other inanimate objects certain not to hurt her by dying before she does. Then a stray puppy arrives at her gate and she must decide whether to risk the pain of loss and accept him into her heart and home.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea
Rylant, Cynthia and others (1994, Harcourt)
Illustrated by Arthur Howard.
This delightful beginning reader series focuses on the adventures of an elderly bachelor and the old cat he bought at the pound, after passing over the hyper kittens at the pet store.

Sam the Zamboni Man
Stevenson, James (1998, Greenwillow)
Illustrated by Harvey Stevenson.
What a thrill for Matt to have a grandfather who drives the Zamboni at professional hockey games! But the most excitement comes after the game has ended and the stadium is almost deserted—that’s when Grandpa takes to the ice on skates, then lets Matt steer the Zamboni for a spin around the rink.

Ages 5 and up

Sachiko Means Happiness
Sakai, Kimiko (1990, Children’s Book Press)
Illustrated by Tomie Arai.
A Japanese-American girl hates spending time alone with her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, until she realizes how frightening it must be to be surrounded by people and places you don’t recognize. Images from traditional Japanese art grace the realistic illustrations for this poignant story.

The Grannyman
Schachner, Judith Byron (1999, Dutton)
Simon is an old cat who loves to look back at his full life, but hates the indignities his aged body forces him to endure. Just as he’s ready to give up the ghost, his owners present him with an energetic new kitten, whom Simon (a.k.a. the Grannyman) is determined to mentor, thus giving him reason to stick around for a while.

The Very Best of Friends
Wild, Margaret (1989, Harcourt)
Illustrated by Julie Vivas.
When James dies suddenly, his wife Jessie holes up in the house and shuts out their cat, William, whom James loved but she has always just tolerated. Jessie and William finally come together for their mutual benefit in this memorable story of love, loss, and healing.

Elementary School

Gus and Grandpa at Basketball
Mills, Claudia (2001, Farrar Straus Giroux)
Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
In this seventh volume of the charming Gus and Grandpa early reader series, Gus is a good basketball player, but gets rattled by all the noise during games. Leave it to Grandpa to figure out a way for Gus to tune out the crowd and focus on the ball.

Little Cliff and the Porch People
Taulbert, Clifton L. (1999, Dial)
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
On the way to buy butter so his great-grandmother can make her famous candied sweet potatoes, Little Cliff stops to chat with all his elderly neighbors and gathers a wealth of additional prized ingredients. Set in the Mississippi Delta, the sun-soaked illustrations radiate the warmth of the day, as well as the good-heartedness of the characters.

The Bedspread
Fair, Sylvia (1982, Morrow)
Two elderly sisters, confined to opposite sides of the same bed, each embroider a unique picture of their childhood home onto their boring white bedspread in this enchanting, intricately illustrated look at the nature of memory.

Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!
Best, Cari (1999, DK Ink)
Illustrated by Giselle Potter.
Sara’s Russian grandmother claims that “this year for my birthday I want no presents!” So her family and the colorful cast of neighbors in her apartment building surprise her with the best “NO PRESENTS” (a song, a waltz, an old photograph, English lessons) they can think of.

Granddaddy’s Stars
Griffith, Helen V. (1995, Greenwillow)
Illustrated by James Stevenson.

In the fourth book featuring Janetta and her grandfather, Janetta frets over her grandfather’s visit to her house, because she fears she won’t have anything interesting to show him. She needn’t worry. Through superbly written dialogue, Grandaddy gives Janetta a new appreciation for the everyday objects and places in her life.

Indian Shoes
Smith, Cynthia Leitich (2002, HarperCollins)
Illustrated by Jim Madsen.
Ray Halfmoon is a Seminole-Cherokee boy who lives with his grandfather in Chicago. Each chapter in this short novel is an affectionate, gently humorous episode from Ray and Grampa’s life together.

Georgie Lee
Denslow, Sharon Phillips (2002, HarperCollins)
Illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins.
This quietly remarkable, humorous short novel unfolds over the course of one hot summer in the country, when we enter the days of a boy and his grandmother—and one quirky cow named Georgie Lee—and get a feel for their steady relationship and the easy rhythm of their time together.

Preteen

The Exiles
McKay, Hilary (1992, McElderry)
The four incorrigible Conroy sisters are banished to their grandmother’s house for the summer while their parents oversee renovation jobs at home. “Big Grandma” wears men’s pajamas and drinks whiskey at bedtime, but beneath her gruff demeanor she has her granddaughters’ best interests at heart in this hilarious novel.

A Long Way from Chicago
Peck, Richard (1998, Dial)
Every summer from 1929 to 1935, Joey and his sister take the train to Grandma’s, and every summer she surprises them with some outrageous act and the occasional glimpse beneath her “tough as an old boot” exterior. In a small town filled with colorful characters, Grandma stands out as a woman readers won’t soon forget.

The Friends
Yumoto, Kazumi (1996, Farrar Straus Giroux)
In this award-winning novel from Japan, three boys become curious about death and hatch a plan to spy on an old man in the neighborhood, hoping to catch him in the act of dying. Their morbid fascination gradually evolves into a celebration of life and friendship.