Smith, L. (2011). Grandpa Green. New York, NY: Roaring Book Press.
I picked up Grandpa Green from Napier Libraries when I saw it was by Lane Smith. I have previously read, and loved, Smith’s It’s a Book (and its awesome book trailer), so selected this newer book with great anticipation. It did not disappoint.
Grandpa Green is told from the perspective of an unnamed child describing his great-grandfather’s life. While the text seems simple on the surface, it combines perfectly with the illustrations to add depth to the story.
The illustrations have a limited colour palette, with various shades of green predominating. However, rather than create dull pictures, this serves to highlight the amazing topiary creations that the grandfather has made. The garden sculptures illustrate events in Grandpa’s life, with occasional splashes of red adding drama to the pictures.
Being an adult, I didn’t pay much attention to the front cover which meant I missed a clue to the story. I thought the boy in the book was Grandpa when he was young, rather than the narrator, and it wasn’t until I was halfway through that I realised my mistake. I then went back and looked for all the hidden clues in the illustrations that I had missed – I imagine children would love finding these hidden objects which foreshadow what is to come.
Grandpa Green is a book about memory, growing old, and what people do to remember. While it is a serious topic, Lane works with a light touch and a splash of humour. This book would work well with primary school children.