Grandpa Green captures important life moments in his garden, a horticultural memoir of sorts showing events and people from his past preserved in topiary. His great-grandson explores the lush trip down memory lane, stopping by all the carefully shaped trees and bushes and picking up the tools his great-grandfather has dropped along the way. A crying baby trimmed from a bush symbolizes Grandpa Green's birth, a carrot shaped topiary reminds everyone of his farming background, and a cannon and parachuters made out of plants represent his wartime experiences. "He used to remember everything. Now he's pretty old." Grandpa Green shapes his story plant by plant with his clippers, his most significant memories living on, flourishing and serving as a reminder, while adding new ones as he is assisted by his great-grandchild. Grandpa Green's legacy stands, ready to be passed down generation after generation.
Grandpa Green is the kind of book that affects people, young and old, in different ways. It's a poignant and interesting exploration of a life, and though Smith describes it as a fictional story, it seems deeply personal. Those with an elderly friend or family member or those with loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease will find it particularly touching. And even though the book tackles serious topics, there are plenty of touches of humor and playfulness that you'd expect from Smith like bunnies eating a topiary carrot and a reference to the Wizard of Oz. Both my daughter and son love to discuss all the detailed images found in the ink line drawings and painted foliage.
Minimal text accompanies the amazing illustrations. The story is told by the great-grandson as he wanders through the garden, connecting young readers to the story. It's not easy bringing up the topic of aging with children. My own children are lucky enough to see two of their great-grandparents regularly and while they love them dearly, it's hard for them to see past the wrinkles and gray hair, to understand the past and see how it intertwines with their own life. It's amazing how books like this help bridge the gap and give kids reasons to search out their own family stories.
Lane Smith's new picture book, Grandpa Green, gracefully tackles the subjects of aging and intergenerational relationships. With unusually lush, green illustrations, it's simply a beautiful book. Read the book one-on-one together with a child, linger over the fine illustrations, and encourage the child to ask questions about his/her own great-grandparents, grandparents and family history. And, if you're like me, you'll find yourself profoundly touched as well, perhaps even a little watery-eyed.