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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grandpa Green, written and illustrated by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook, 2011. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"He was born a really
long time ago,
before computers or
cell phones or television.
He grew up on a farm
with pigs and corn and

This is truly a glorious book. I know that every time I read it I will find something new to think about and to see in its pages. It is a love story about a grandson and his great-grandfather, chronicling a life well-lived and a man much loved.

He was born long ago, and has lived a long and productive life. I love the opening illustration, showing a baby apparently howling and crying a fountain of tears...only to turn the page and see the grandson opening a tap and water shooting skyward from the hose he is holding. On we go through tree lined paths with topiary at every turn. Rabbits are chased away from a huge green carrot, and we see the first in an assortment of abandoned gardening tools. As we explore the garden with the young boy, we live Grandpa Green's life through his amazing topiaries.

We learn that he wanted to be a horticulturalist but the war brought that dream up short. As luck would have it, he met the love of his life overseas and married her. The garden is a chronicle of his life, and its important events. As Grandpa ages and begins to forget many of these, his garden serves as a reminder to him of the life he has led. There are so many wonderful illustrations that speak volumes to the story told. A double page spread that accompanies the simple words 'Now he's pretty old' shows the youngster swinging from the limb of a stately tree that fills the entire space with its huge trunk and far-reaching branches, as the leaves turn from green to autumn gold and finally to gone. The concept of aging is shared with understated elegance.

It is a fantastic world, created with love and skill and providing the memories that Grandpa needs to remember the life he has lived, as his memory fails. The tale is told simply, leaving the wondrous illustrations to be the 'important stuff'. Grandpa Green ensures his great-grandson a place in his garden in a four-page spread that concludes the book...the grandson posing for a new topiary while the entire garden of memories provides the backdrop. I repeat...GLORIOUS!

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