Writing a picture book about grief is a difficult job; Londner accomplishes it by writing about something else: life.
This is a story that works because it has more detail than necessary. When the narrator is remembering his grandfather, he’s very specific: “Grandpa taught me how to tie six different Boy Scout knots.” When Avilés draws Grandpa in a cowboy hat (he’s marching in a parade for Purim), a gold star is pinned on the front. This is a book about gravestones and memorial services, but even a scene in a cemetery includes more than one emotion: “People smile when they see the name ‘Duke’ along with Grandpa’s real name. That was his nickname....Grandpa Duke and I watched John Wayne movies together, and he let me wear his cowboy hat.” This is a story about grief, but it’s also about cowboys and parades and the best way to catch a frog, and some readers may have the strange experience of missing a person they never knew. The story is so very packed with detail it’s as though the author wanted to write one that contained all of life. She didn’t succeed, of course. It would have been impossible.
This is a book that celebrates a life, full of Boy Scout knots and costume parties, and that’s more than enough. (Picture book. 5-9)