OPINION | READ TO ME: Add ‘The Forgettery’ to shelf crammed with good books for Grandparents Day

2022-09-10 10:52:13 By : Ms. Alice Sung

The Sunday after Labor Day, Sept. 11, is National Grandparents Day in America (and Canada). Thank you, President Jimmy Carter.

If we simply must obey the dictates of marketing, the time is ripe for children's books whose titles contain "Grandmother" or "Grandfather" or some other synonym for mothers- or fathers-in-law. But wouldn't the world feel a bit less lonely to a beloved elder rattling about in the cave of her heart if every day was Grandparents Day? Hmm?

Or, said another way, might we not celebrate the alliance between aging coots or crones and their descendants all year long?

To help, there are recently released, sensitively illustrated story books that celebrate intergenerational deep feelings, including "A Gift for Nana" by Lane Smith (Random House Studio, May 10), ages 4-8, 40 pages, $18.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook. In this lovely picture book, a wispy bunny goes on a quest to find a way to express that true love.

Less nuanced but still joyful options new and old abound, from Mercer Mayer's easy readers in which hairy monsters adventure one-on-one with Grandma, to bad-attitude-resolving tales of grumpy youngsters who learn their grandparents are way cool (see several titles from The Berenstain Bears).

In that vein — the one about good times to be had far away from Mom and Dad — families with Hispanic ancestry could look at "Something About Grandma" by Tania de Regil (Candlewick Press, Aug. 9) ages 4-8, 40 pages, $18.99 hardcover.

Grandma comes to Julia's house, where her mommy is very pregnant, and escorts Julia to picturesque mountains outside Mexico City. Everything Grandma does is unfamiliar but wonderful, from her garden to her cooking. When Julia misses her family, Grandma knows exactly what to do, enveloping her in a cuddly blanket.

In the end, Julia discovers that her whole family is at home with Grandma, too. She has a magical way about her that has nothing to do with fantasy.

But if you want fantasy, there is Sir Paul McCartney. I'm not much in love with his too-personal seeming characters, but if you liked "Hey Granddude!" see "Granddude's Green Submarine," another goofy indulgence (October 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), ages 1-7, 32 pages.

And a case can still be made for the magical grandma in poet Louise Erdrich's "Grandmother's Pigeon" (University of Minnesota Press, September 2021), ages 5-9, 32 pages. First published in 1996, its text, while wordy, tackles the most difficult part of a child-grandparent relationship, the part where Grandma vanishes into time.

In Erdrich's hopeful story, detritus left by Grandmother's vibrant passions literally revives an extinct species, the passenger pigeon. And although unseen and impossible, she is also still alive, out there somewhere. Jim LaMarche's naturalistic drawings are memorable, and the topic allows one to talk about global devastation as well as ... death.

It's easier to be excited over "The Forgettery" (Dean, a HarperCollins imprint, Tuesday) ages 3-6, 32 pages, $18.99 hardcover, $7.99 paperback. Written by Rachel Ip and illustrated by Laura Hughes, this joyous story takes on the other giant problem in the sweet room where grandparents and descendants meet to play: dementia.

That word does not appear in the text, but little Amelia's Granny is forgetful, and sometimes she forgets memories that matter to Amelia.

One day, Amelia and Granny get so engrossed in exploring that they forget to go home for dinner. They wander deep into a forest where they find something strange. Beyond a sign that reads "The Forgettery" are stairs to a door in a massive tree.

Inside they find a bustling place full of all kinds of stuff and busy people and signs all over the place. One sign reads, "Warning: Memories Delivered Out of the Blue."

The people bustling about are Memory Keepers. One, a tall man on roller-skates, ushers Amelia and Granny into a sort-of hot air balloon that carries them up, up past stories with wooden-plank balconies. Finally they reach a level where there's a door with Granny's name on it. In a nice touch, her name is "Granny."

Inside is everything Granny ever forgot. All of it. And because she has forgotten a whole lot, the place is a vast vault crammed with shelves. Granny's forgotten moments of delight flutter about, thin as butterflies, and she smiles.

Eventually our heroines have to leave because they're hungry, but on the way out they spot the door to Amelia's Forgettery. Hers is a much smaller, cozy space including a whole box full of forgotten please and thank-yous, and another of ouches.

Back at home, Amelia draws a book for Granny about all the memories they saw in her Forgettery. The one thing Amelia will never forget is that they love one another.

Print Headline: Wholesome books for Grandparents Day

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