The young girl who narrates Grandma’s Gloves enjoys spending time with her grandmother, an avid gardener. Together they water the flowers and tend the garden, then drink tea and eat cookies or homemade doughnuts. Her narration lingers on the sights, smells, and sensations of these visits.
When Grandma dies, the granddaughter is bereft. No one seems interested in Grandma’s plants – except the narrator, who carefully waters the garden wearing her grandmother’s gardening gloves. It is only when she asks her mother if they can plant a garden together that she finds some solace. She will teach her mother everything that Grandma taught her.
Grandma’s Gloves is former Montrealer Cecil Castellucci’s first book for young children, following several successes (Beige, The Queen of Cool, The Plain Janes) in the YA field. Judging by her author’s note, the story is drawn at least partly from Castellucci’s own experience. Children who are grieving will relate to the unnamed protagonist’s feelings.
The book’s execution, however, is not entirely satisfying. Perhaps Castellucci was a little too close to her subject matter – sentiment at times overwhelms the text. Loneliness, too: this small child seems to feel she alone must carry on her grandmother’s legacy by teaching her own mother to nurture – a heavy burden for one so young.
On the positive side, Bostonian Julie Denos’s watercolour-and-pencil images are bright and cheerful, as if washed in sunlight. They help dispel some of the heaviness of the subject matter, but like the narrator, they should not have to bear the load all on their own.
Cecil Castellucci is the author of many acclaimed books for older readers, including Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool, and Beige. This is her first picture book. She lives in Los Angeles.
Julia Denos earned a BFA in illustration from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. She lives outside of Boston.