Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DELIGHTFUL PICTURE BOOKS ABOUT GRANDPARENTS

I have recently come across four charming picture books about grandmothers and grandfathers, and the only negative thing I have to say is that I no longer have grandchildren in the picture-book stage!

All four of these books are published by a small firm, FlashLight Press, and all are written and illustrated by different and equally talented author/artist teams. The stories are entertaining and even thought-provoking, the pictures are delightful, and I think they will bear the test of your having to read them over and over and over again. I haven’t been able to choose a favorite, so I’ll just describe them briefly so you can see which one fits your grandchild relationship – or which one makes the two of you (and maybe grandpa too) laugh the most.

"Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie" by Laurie A. Jacobs and Anne Jewett describes all the funny characters who show up whenever Grandma Tillie baby-sits – Tillie Vanilly with the bright pink hair who loves to tell jokes and dance the conga, Chef Silly Tillie who cooks giggly chili, and a host of other lovable grannies.

"Grandfather’s Wrinkles" by Kathryn England and Richard McFarland recounts Granddad’s answers to Lucy’s question: “Why doesn’t your skin fit you any more? It’s all crinkly.” Granddad then takes Lucy on a trip around his lined face as he tells her about each joyous event that caused a particular wrinkle – until he comes to the most special wrinkles of all.

"Grandpa for Sale" by Dotti Enderle, Vicki Sansum, and T. Kyle Gentry portrays wealthy Mrs. Larchmont’s efforts to buy Grandpa from the family antique store and granddaughter Lizzie’s dreams of all the fabulous things she could buy for Grandpa’s purchase price. Will she sell him? Of course not, but we don’t learn that until the last page.

"Getting to Know Ruben Plotnick" by Roz Rosenbluth and Maurie J. Manning is a touching story about children’s understanding of dementia. When David invites his friend Ruben home, he’s a little worried about how Ruben will react to David’s grandmother, who sometimes says and does odd things. But he needn’t have worried: Ruben shows what he’s made of, and all three people enjoy his visit.

I hope that FlashLight Press will bring out more books about grandparents – and more with boys as the main characters. It’s ironic – I had to edit so many of the books that I read to my own daughters to turn the main characters into girls, and now I wonder whether the tide has turned the other way so that it’s harder to find male heroes at this age level. In any case, anyone reading any of these books to a child can do a little verbal editing to make the gender fit the grandchild if you want.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Books That Impacted My Life

Recently, in connection with the 120th anniversary of the magnificent Port Washington (NY) Public Library, where I spent so many valuable hours and received so much good help, I was asked to name some of the books that have made a big difference in my life. Since I’m sure that my fellow grandmothers have read some of these – and if not, would like to read them - I’m copying here the choices I sent to the library.

"The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan and "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir. I read both of these books during the summer of 1963. I was a young mother with three small children and although I loved taking care of them, I knew that I wanted to pursue other avenues in my life, and both of these books inspired me and gave me confidence in myself. In 1997 I nominated Betty Friedan for the Career Achievement Award presented by the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and I was proud to present her with her well-deserved award.

Going back quite a few years before then, I have to say that Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women" made a huge impression on me. I read that book five times, first when I was about ten years old and most recently in my mid-twenties, when I cried at the same parts of the book that I had always cried at. Like so many other readers I identified with Jo, the strongest of the sisters, the most independent, and – what was significant for me – the writer. I think I have to credit this book with first giving me the idea that I could choose writing as a profession.

More recently my life was influenced by Arlene Blum’s book, "Annapurna: A Woman’s Place," about the first American ascent of Annapurna and the first all-women’s summiting of the mountain. I have never climbed a mountain, but this book inspired me so much that I did end up doing high-altitude trekking in the Himalayas, fell in love with Nepal and her people, ended up going there seven times, helped my guide start a library in his village, did what was probably the single biggest thing I ever did to change someone else’s life – arranged for cleft lip surgery for a village child, and then wrote my own book, "A Balcony in Nepal: Glimpses of a Himalayan Village."