Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grandpa Green, by Lane Smith (ages 4 - 9) - beautiful picture book

There are times that a picture book calls to me. Every time I see it in a bookstore, it calls out to me, "Come look, just one more time. Peek inside." From the first time that I read it standing in an airport bookstore, Grandpa Green has called to me. The illustrations are beautiful, balancing intricate simplicity, amusing images and a heartfelt message.
Grandpa Green
by Lane Smith
NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2011
ages 4 - 9
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
A young boy walks through a garden as he tells us about his great-grandfather. But this is no ordinary garden - it is filled with enormous topiary sculptures, living plants cut into fanciful shapes by his great-grandfather. At first, the sculptures seem whimsical, like the elephant on the cover; but very soon you realize that each sculpture helps tell the story, Grandpa Green's story of his life. When he was sick with the chickenpox, "He had to stay home from school. So he read stories about secret gardens and wizards and a little engine that could."

While some reviewers have wondered how children will react to this story, the 2nd graders at Emerson really enjoyed it. The loved finding the different sculptures, figuring out why they were important in Grandpa Green's life. They enjoyed Lane Smith's humor and the details in the illustrations - noticing repeating images, foreshadowing and they symbols from Grandpa's life. And they responded especially well to the tender conclusion of the story, as the little boy describes how Grandpa tends to forget things more now, but that the garden remembers the important things for him. This is a book that worked well reading with a whole class, but will also invite repeated one-on-one reading.

We read Grandpa Green as part of a Mock Caldecott unit, in anticipation of the 2012 Caldecott award being announced on January 23rd.

Watch the trailer for Grandpa Green here:

Grandpa Green has received praise from many sources:
Read other reviews at:
All images copyright Lane Smith, 2011, shared courtesy of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. Beautiful, yes! My personal favorite book of the year...
    - AZ

  2. Hi! I follow you on RSS feed. I saw you were doing a mock Caldecott vote. I was wondering what other books were you reading to second graders? I am reading next week Grandpa Green, Where's Walrus? and Me...Jane. I was debating if I should even use Grandpa Green because of the subject matter, but you have conviced me to share it:)

  3. What a beautiful book--I'm definitely going to have to check it out!