Cover image for Grandmother's visit / Betty Quan ; pictures by Carmen Mok.
Title:
Grandmother's visit / Betty Quan ; pictures by Carmen Mok.
Author:
ISBN:
9781554989546
Publication Information:
Toronto : Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations ; 25 cm
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Summary

Summary

Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature Picture Book Honor Title



Grandmother lives with Grace's family. She teaches her how to measure water for rice. She tells her stories about growing up in China and together they savor the flavors of her childhood. Grandmother says goodbye when she drops Grace off at school every morning and hello when she picks her up at the end of the day.

Then, Grandmother stops walking Grace to and from school, and the door to her room stays closed. Father comes home early to make dinner, but the rice bowls stay full. One day, Grandmother's room is empty. And one day, Grandmother is buried. After the funeral, Grace's mom turns on all the outside lights so that Grandmother's spirit can find its way home for one final goodbye.

Carmen Mok's gentle illustrations show the love between a child and her grandmother in this story that will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one. Betty Quan's picture-book debut is haunting yet hopeful.


Author Notes

BETTY QUAN is a writer for children's television programs, including the Discovery Kids production Doki. She wrote Mother Tongue, which was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama. She also adapted Paul Yee's book Ghost Train for the stage. This is her first picture book. She lives in Toronto.

CARMEN MOK is a studio-art graduate of the University of Waterloo, and a crafts and design graduate of Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. Her books include Waiting for Sophie by Sarah Ellis, Look at Me Now by Carol McDougall and Shanda LaRamee-Jones, and Ride the Big Machines in Winter. She lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.


Reviews 1

New York Review of Books Review

MY NANA NEVER explained to us why she'd chosen to go by a more culturally neutral shorthand for "grandmother" instead of the customary - and irresistible - Greek word "Yiayia." She was a proud Greek- American who worked as a receptionist until she was 84, listened to Nana Mouskouri records on the hi-fiin her living room, and rolled dolmades so perfectly uniform they belonged in an encyclopedia of domestic miracles. "Chryso mou," she used to say out loud when she took my sister's face in her hands, then my older brother's, and then mine; we were all her "golden one" ("dear one" is the less literal translation), but the fierceness and unselfishness of my Nana's love made each of us feel as if we'd been singled out. THE BROOKLYN-BASED illustrator and graphic designer Cecilia Ruiz captures the particular tenderness of grandmothers in A GIFT FROM ABUELA (Candlewick, 29 pp., $15.99; ages 4 to 8), her first book written expressly for young children. Ruiz's "The Book of Memory Gaps" (2015) and "The Book of Extraordinary Deaths" (2018) are dazzlingly Goreyesque in their cataloging of suggestive memory disorders and evocative deaths from the seventh century B.C. to the present. "A GiftFrom Abuela," with its block-printed illustrations in muted colors, is more modest in its storytelling and heartwarming in its message, though Ruiz still manages to capture complex social realities (the economic crisis in Mexico in the early 1990s, the alienation of older adults). The story itself is simple: Abuela saves her hard-earned pesos to buy a special present for her beloved granddaughter Niña, though when the government devalues the peso and she fails to exchange it, the money becomes worthless. To liftAbuela's spirits, Niña's solution is to cut the old bills into pieces for elaborate papel picado banners and use them to decorate the drab apartment, allowing Ruiz to create an art-project-within-a-picture-book story that had my own 2-year-old transfixed. An abuela's love is valued and returned in new and innovative forms. At the book's end, Niña and Abuela are spending a Sunday in the park, having pan dulce and watching the people go by: "It was still their favorite thing to do," Ruiz writes. THE GRANDMOTHER FIGURE in Oge Mora's debut as an author-illustrator, THANK YOU, OMU! (Little, Brown, 31 pp., $18.99; ages 4 to 8), is a life-giving force with a nearly bottomless stew pot. The story opens in a kitchen at "the corner of First Street and Long Street, on the very top floor" (the city is unnamed), where Omu, dressed in a yellow drape and gold drop earrings, is tasting the delicious stew that she plans on eating that night. Mora's illustrations use collage to give the book's world a sense of depth and vibrancy - the stew in the pot is represented by an ever-changing calico design - and the stream of cooking odors trailing out the apartment window gives the first hint of the book's folkloric plot. An author's note informs us that in the Nigerian language Igbo, "omu" means "queen," and that in Mora's family, the word also meant "Grandma." As Omu's cooking pot simmers on the stove, the delicious smell travels, and soon a succession of people are knocking at the door to get a taste: a boy from down the hall; a female police officer; a hot dog vendor; a cabdriver. Omu, thanks to the deliciousness of her stew, becomes a grandmother to the whole community. When her pot finally runs empty and it looks as if Omu won't have anything to eat that night, the community returns the love by feeding Omu with an impromptu potluck dinner. Mora is especially deftat using pastels and china markers to give the faces of her cutout figures roundness and expression; similarly, the street scenes are filled with cutouts (a lurching taxi, a flying bus, an energeticlooking soccer player) that will have toddlers reaching out to grab them. THE WRITER BETTY QUAN and the artist Carmen Mok strike a more somber note in GRANDMOTHER'S VISIT (Groundwood, 29 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8), their collaboration about the persistence of grandmothers - and the sense of absence that follows their loss. Told in the first-person, the book follows an unnamed girl through her days with her Chinese-born grandmother (it's never stated outright, but the girl's grandmother is her primary caregiver while her parents are offat work), learning how to get the proportions right when cooking a pot of rice, or listening to her stories about eating red lotus beans on holidays back in her village. Suddenly the girl's grandmother is no longer at her side after school, and the door to her bedroom is always closed. Her death is handled suggestively, and the book's color palette darkens as the story takes a beguiling turn in its last pages and veers into the territory of a traditional Chinese ghost story. Small children shouldn't be frightened, though - the spirit of this grandmother is much too loving and protective for that. LEST WE FORGET about grandfathers and their unearthly powers, the beloved children's author Tomie dePaola, best known for the classic witchy grandmother story "Strega Nona" (1975), has created the beautifully spare picture book QUIET (Simon & Schuster, 28 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8). This meditation on seeing and stillness teaches mindfulness to children - and the adults who read to them - in a nonpreachy way. Everything about the book is pared-down essentials, from the one-word title to the sparing use of text to the colorfully elemental illustrations. The book opens with a grandfather, looking very much the artist in a banded hat and long scarf, standing in a green field with his two grandchildren and a dog, watching the bees swarm a patch of flowers. A praying mantis climbs a lily stalk, and a mother fox lies curled with her young in a hidden den. "My, oh my," the grandfather says. "Everything is in such a hurry." The family moves through the landscape in the pages that follow, finally sitting down on a bench in order to notice, see deeper and describe. "The birds are just like us," the grandfather says at one point. "Taking a rest, singing their song." In its slowness and its serenity, "Quiet" is a prime example of the "late style" in dePaola's trajectory (think Shakespeare's "The Tempest" or Verdi's "Falstaff") and a corrective to the distraction that threatens to engulf us all. Leave it to a grandparent with an uncanny giftof sight to remind us how to stop, look and really see. But quietly.