GRANPA by John Burningham


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The jacket drawing of a little girl clinging to her grandfather's shoulders conveys a joyous, adventuresome sharing--but leaves in doubt just what sort of vehicle (a horse-drawn cart, perhaps) they're breezing along in. And the contents--a different shared experience at each opening--are more ambiguous still: deliberately oblique, and inferential. Mostly the pit an adult's matter-of-factness against a child's imaginings. The two are in a greenhouse, where we are supposed to gather from the pictures that Granpa is transplanting seedlings from flats into pots. In Roman type (implicitly, Granpa): "There will not be room for all the little seeds to grow." In italics (implicitly, the little girl): "Do worms go to heaven?" To an adult ear, that may sound a cute non sequitur; most children are apt to take it as simple woolly-headedness. Another scene, one of the simpler to explain, has the pair looking out of the house in a rainstorm: "Noah knew the ark was not far from land when he saw the dove carrying the olive branch," says Granpa; "Could we float away in this house, Granpa?" says the little girl. Then, overleaf, he's saying--with no connection whatever: "That was not a nice thinS to say to Granpa." And at the last we have a mini-sequence, totally unforeshadowed, in which Granpa sits in his chair, sick; takes the little girl on his lap; and vanishes, presumed dead (!), as we see her silently gazing at his empty chair. There are ways to make scattered moments, and tenuous feelings, add up--but only in the pictures does the relationship register here.
Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0099434083
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1985


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