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Sunday, November 24, 2013

When Charley Met Grampa, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2013. $18.00 ages 4 and up

"The station looks like a
tiny red house,
and there's a bench outside
for waiting.
Charley is crazy for trains,
just like me,
and waiting for trains,
just like me,
and I put my arm around
Charley and we started to wait."

I have shared Henry and Charley's first meeting and night together many times in the past year. I love the feeling evoked between the two, and the genuine love that they have for each other right from the very first minute. Henry did the job he promised...he took care of Charley to the best of his ability.

In their second story, Henry is keen to have Charley meet his beloved grandfather. So, he sends
Grampa a letter:

"Dear Grampa,
We got a dog. His name is Charley.
He sleeps in my room. He's a fast runner
like me, and he's got the same last name
as me. Korn. "

Grampa sends a note back quickly, giving the time to expect him at the train station.
He also adds a note about Charley:

"Now, about that dog. Is he friendly or fierce?
I've never been friends with a dog before.
I'll do my best, but no promises."

Henry can't wait for the two to meet. On Sunday, he and Charley are up bright and early, and off they go to meet Grampa. What an adventure! Snow is falling all around, and both are filled with happy anticipation as they make their down snowy streets to the train station. They wait, and they wait, and they wait some more. Charley does a lot of sighing. Henry distracts him by telling him all about his Grampa to prepare him for their meeting:

"Charley smiled when I said Grampa's the tallest Korn with the longest feet and he snores wild."

Amy Hest creates such warmth with her words and shows her audience the tender love that exists between child and pet, and between child and grandparent. Grampa is not sure about Charley; but, Charley is sure that anyone who loves Henry as Grampa does is worthy of his love, too. He comes to the rescue for Grampa and his hat, and makes a new friend.

The incomparable Helen Oxenbury uses pencil and watercolor artwork to give readers all the visual details that make this story so warm and inviting. Charley romping through the snow, the long wait with the two sitting quietly together, the shiver of cold, the excitement of the welcome...each small scene is charming and absorbing as the story is shared.

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