By Lane Smith
Review by Sarah Eisele
Many years ago, he was a farm boy with chicken pox (though he didn’t catch it from the chickens). He loved gardens and growing things and planned to study horticulture, but when he graduated from high school the whole world was at war, so he became a soldier and went to Europe. He met and married the woman with whom he would spend his life laughing and loving – and never, ever fighting (to hear him tell it). He was a father, a grandfather, and then a great-grandfather. The events and choices of his life are displayed in his beloved topiary garden. Now that he has begun to forget, his great-grandson lovingly tends his grandfather’s cherished memories.
Noted children’s book creator Lane Smith, a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of Caldecott Honors, weaves gentle humor and charm throughout his story. In Lane Smith’s inimitable style, Grandpa Green explores concepts of aging, memory, and the bonds of family, stretching across generations, while relating the simple history of a man’s life. Grandpa Green’s life story is familiar, nothing very out of the ordinary, and yet made infinitely special by his great-grandson’s love and pride as he takes up the task of nurturing the memories his great-grandfather is beginning to lose. The story of a family passes into a new generation.
Alternately tender and fanciful, Grandpa Green’s story is engaging and the artwork enchanting. Smith’s words and pictures work together to create a whole very much greater than the sum of its parts, each enhancing the other and producing a book that is satisfying, meaningful, and charming. Background trees, animals, even the characters of Grandpa Green and the little boy are drawn in muted earth tones, the reality of the moment a subdued contrast to the lush, verdant topiary garden that depicts the milestones and memories of a man’s life in myriad vibrant shades of green. Ideal to help children discuss and begin to understand concepts of aging, memory, and family, Grandpa Green is also a refreshing, engaging story to simply read and enjoy, its gently bittersweet tones softened by Lane Smith’s winsome artwork and his warmth, whimsy, and humor.