The Bottom Line
It's rare to find a children's book that is not only lovely and entertaining but also meets a real need. Sometimes It's Grandmas and Grandpas: Not Mommies and Daddies fills an important need for children in grandparent custody. This book doesn't gloss over the reality of a life that doesn't contain parents, but it reassures children being cared for by grandparents that their way of life has validity, too.
- Fills an important niche
- Warm, comforting story
- Beautiful watercolor illustrations
- Very specific situation
- Published by Abbeville Press
- 32 pages
- Full-color illustrations
- Reading level 4-8
Grandparents raising grandchildren have a lot of concerns, some of which never occur to those of us doing the more usual grandparent thing. In an author's note, Gayle Byrne, who is raising a granddaughter, tells of reading a book about a mommy bunny and a daddy bunny to her granddaughter and realizing how confusing such books must be to her. A longtime children's librarian, Byrne set out to write a book that would be more comforting to children like her granddaughter, and the result is Sometimes It's Grandmas and Grandpas: Not Mommies and Daddies. Byrne's book will be a favorite of children in grandparent custody and can be a valuable learning tool for other children as well.
"We cuddle a lot together, Nonnie and me," the book begins. It goes on to list some of the cuddling opportunities: "Sometimes it's cuz it's cold and wintery outside and our house is warm and has cooking-supper smells." Poppy and Buddy the dog also figure into the family scenes. The book addresses the issue of the missing parents through the books that the grandparents and granddaughter read together, but there is a comforting reassurance that "Poppies can twirl and spin just as good as Daddies" and ". . . hugs and kisses never run out at home with Nonnie and Poppy."
Mary Haverfield supplies the book's watercolor illustrations, and they contribute enormously to the book's appeal. The soft colors are typical watercolor, but there is a swirling movement to some of the illustrations and a touch of humor in others that will appeal to children. I like the modern look of the grandmother and grandfather, who are white-faired but trim and active. There's a subplot about the grandfather building a treehouse that is apparent only in the illustrations, not in the text, and which adds to the satisfying resolution.
The only fault I can find in the book is that we need more books like this one. Because the book describes a very specific situation--two grandparents, one granddaughter--all children in grandparent custody may not be able to relate to it. I'd love to see Byrne and Haverfield create more books in this vein. Regardless of what Tolstoy had to say on the subject, all happy families are not alike, and books celebrating this particular type of happy family are in short supply.