A welcome addition to children’s literature about death and dying.

GG AND MAMELA

In this children’s picture book, a special bond between young Lily and her great-grandmother helps them through the elderly woman’s time at a hospice residence.

This story starts by explaining the main characters’ unusual names for each other. Lily’s great-grandmother is called “GG” for short, a fact that the book awkwardly explains by having the girl say, “I forget—why do we call you that?” When Lily asks about her own pet name, GG says mysteriously, “I call you Mamela, because you are close to my heart.” (It likely comes from the Yiddish word for “little girl”—literally, “little mother.”) Lily sums up, “You’re my GG and I’m you’re Mamela,” and GG answers, “And that’s the way it will always be,” setting up a refrain that repeats a bit too often throughout the text. Next, Lily visits GG’s apartment and learns how to make chicken soup with GG’s secret ingredient. In this part, the simple but emotionally resonant illustrations show GG looking hale and hearty, but “[a]fter dinner, GG felt tired,” which provides the only inkling of what’s to come. Readers may not be fully prepared when, “a few days later,” Lily’s father gently breaks the news that GG is dying. Lily responds by telling him that GG is at the top of a family tree she made in school; that night, she has a bad dream about GG falling off that family tree, which gives the book a nice, true-to-life touch. When Lily’s parents take her to the hospice residence, GG is in a wheelchair and suddenly looks much older. “You look…tired. Are you okay?” Lily asks. The next day, GG and Lily snuggle together while listening to a harpist play. The book pairs an ethereal illustration with lyrical text (“Ariel’s music wrapped around them just like GG’s rainbow afghan”), which truly captures the healing, transporting power of music in this setting. Shortly after making GG’s chicken soup with her father, Lily goes for a last visit and poignantly whispers in GG’s ear, “You are my Mamela. Because I love you with all my heart.”

A welcome addition to children’s literature about death and dying.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0989930901

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lamb Press

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2014

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some...

RALPH TELLS A STORY

With a little help from his audience, a young storyteller gets over a solid case of writer’s block in this engaging debut.

Despite the (sometimes creatively spelled) examples produced by all his classmates and the teacher’s assertion that “Stories are everywhere!” Ralph can’t get past putting his name at the top of his paper. One day, lying under the desk in despair, he remembers finding an inchworm in the park. That’s all he has, though, until his classmates’ questions—“Did it feel squishy?” “Did your mom let you keep it?” “Did you name it?”—open the floodgates for a rousing yarn featuring an interloping toddler, a broad comic turn and a dramatic rescue. Hanlon illustrates the episode with childlike scenes done in transparent colors, featuring friendly-looking children with big smiles and widely spaced button eyes. The narrative text is printed in standard type, but the children’s dialogue is rendered in hand-lettered printing within speech balloons. The episode is enhanced with a page of elementary writing tips and the tantalizing titles of his many subsequent stories (“When I Ate Too Much Spaghetti,” “The Scariest Hamster,” “When the Librarian Yelled Really Loud at Me,” etc.) on the back endpapers.

An engaging mix of gentle behavior modeling and inventive story ideas that may well provide just the push needed to get some budding young writers off and running. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0761461807

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amazon Children's Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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