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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Grandad's Island, written and illustrated by Benji Davies. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.00 ages 5 and up

"At the top of the island, where a cool breeze blew through the trees, they found an old shack. There was a lot to do, but with a little help, they soon had the place shipshape. They explored the island high and low. At every turn they saw new wonders."

Syd and his grandfather are two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth, two halves of a whole ...  they are on the same page when it comes to a love of adventure and each other.

Their adventure this time begins in Grandad's attic. They pass through a metal door to board a ship set to sail to a fantastic island. Upon arrival Grandad leads Syd on a search for lodging. They find an old shack and work together to create a perfect home. Their exploration leads to wondrous discoveries and much delight. In fact, when it comes time to leave, Grandad tells his beloved grandson that he is going to stay. Syd is concerned that his grandfather may find it lonely. No worry about that at all!

So, home Syd sails. He will miss his grand companion with all his heart.  When next he visits his grandfather's house, he finds it quiet and lonely. Syd misses his granddad. A tap on the window and a delivered note shows Grandad smiling and surrounded by his new island animal friends. Syd is consoled.

Benji Davies' warm digital artwork is awash with brilliant details that depict a life well lived and the joyous companionship between generations. The island is indeed a glorious place: full of riotous color, impressive wildlife, and splendor. It feels magical. 

Readers will interpret this comforting story in appropriate ways. While never mentioning death, the loss and yearning for a loved one is clear and deeply felt. Many readers will know the sadness of loss. In this book it is handled sensitively and with compassion for the one left behind. As kids do, they will take what they need from Mr. Davies' wise and heartfelt tale. It is not sad, but touching. Check out the double page spread of island life, featuring an orang reading in a hammock, Grandad's yard with all the creature comforts needed to enjoy peaceful days with tea, a book and a host of companions. Pretty hard to beat, don't you think?

Saying goodbye is never easy. Knowing that Grandad is in a spectacular 'better place' might just ease the lonely sadness that loss brings.

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