"But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children." Psalm 103:17
For many years it has been our custom at Covenant to recognize and celebrate grandparents during Holy Week. Grandparent's Day falls on Maundy Thursday every year, the day before Good Friday. On this special day, the grandparents of our Pre-grammar and Grammar school students gather in Jireh Hall to visit their grandchildren's classrooms, meet the students' teachers and friends and enjoy a short program in their honor. Rows of shining faces raise sweet voices in song and recite specially prepared selections of poetry and passages of Scripture to proud and loving applause.
This Maundy Thursday, the halls, assembly room, and classrooms will be dark and silent. Not only will the campus be quiet and empty of the usual happy buzz and bustle of Grandparent's Day, but our families will be preparing to spend the entirety of Easter weekend at home, isolated, apart from extended family—apart from grandparents.
Even the smallest of our students know that in doing this, we are, in large part, helping to keep our Grandmas and Grandpas, Nanas and Poppas, Mimis and Granddads, safe. We pray that this season does not continue much longer, that we will be able to embrace our loved ones soon.
On Maundy Thursday, we remember the sharing and celebration of the Last Supper and the washing of the disciples' feet. Jesus says, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." Though we have physical limitations during a quarantine, our students and families will reach out in a myriad of ways. In the midst of disappointment and the prospect of an Easter void of many of the usual trappings, we will encourage our children to love as they have been loved, and to think of others before themselves. In the spirit of Christ’s example and in obedience to his word, our Covenant families will continue acts of loving service, times of sharing and moments of celebration.
We are amazed by all the thoughtful, creative ways our families have been bridging the distance during this extended quarantine: video conferencing (grandparents embracing technology!), exchanging letters, mailing cards, pictures, and craft projects, running errands, dropping off baskets of gifts and essentials. Loving their grandparents and elders well is at the forefront of the minds of many young people, perhaps in a way that it was not before.
This time in which we find ourselves also presents a unique opportunity to listen, to hear family history, share stories—a time for children to ask their elders, grandparents, and great-grandparents what it was like in "the old days" when they were young. What a rare opportunity to hear, acknowledge, and express gratitude for the immeasurable impact and lasting influence their lives and experiences have on those who come after them.
In honor of this coming Grandparent's Day (different as it will be), we want to continue the spirit of remembrance and celebration, to spark a renewed commitment to connection and service through the power of story. The following are recommendations of some of our very favorite books featuring grandparents. These stories, some older, some more contemporary, cover a wide range of reading/interest levels and a variety of tones—from sweet to silly to deeply thoughtful—but each recognizes and celebrates the unique relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Select one to read together as a family, send one to a grandparent or great-grandparent and enjoy reading & discussing it together; see if it might evoke some long-forgotten family anecdote or memory. Have your students write the memories, the conversations down in their journals—one day, they will be passing down the stories of this time to their own grandchildren!
Recommendations are ordered by grade level. While our library is currently closed, many of the following books can be accessed or purchased online. And don't forget that your local public libraries offer both digital library cards and digital materials free of charge to our communities!
Little Critter books remain an enduring favorite since the publication of Just for You 45 years ago. Mercer Mayer charms and amuses grown-ups and children both with gently humorous, first-person narratives that perfectly capture the simple joys and frustrations of childhood. In Just Grandma and Me, Little Critter spends a day at the beach with his grandmother, while Just Grandpa and Me describes a grandfather-grandson outing to the Big City to buy a new suit. With endless patience, affection, and genuine enthusiasm, Grandma and Grandpa make delightful adventures of these everyday experiences.
The Button Box by Margarette S. Reid, 1990
Wonderful sensory description and detailed illustration mark this engaging book that will have little ones begging for a button box to explore. It is both informative (readers will learn a LOT about buttons) and gently reflective as it examines quiet moments of connection between a boy and his grandmother.
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, 2005, Caldecott Medal
Chris Raschka's bright and lively illustrations wonderfully accompany this story of a spirited little girl's relationship with her Nanna and Poppy and the love and joy that her grandparents' home embodies for her.
How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan, 2012
Grandpa frankly looks a little concerned, but there is no need to fear - he has a competent babysitter in the form of his young grandson who is coming to spend the day with him! Endearing, funny, and charmingly illustrated, this book was followed in 2014 by How to Babysit a Grandma, in which a playful Grandma is "babysat" by her granddaughter. Younger children will enjoy the silly role-reversal, the entertaining "instructions" for caring for a grandpa/grandma and jolly ideas for grandparent/grandchild friendly activities.
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, 2014, Caldecott Honor
This lovely little book speaks to one of a child's biggest fears: fear of change, of the unknown. A young boy's grandmother has moved to the big city—so crowded, loud, and frightening, he is convinced it is no place for his Nana. But a special gift from his clever, confident Nana and sharing in her knack for seeing past the city’s noise and confusion to the beauty, excitement, and opportunity beneath the surface, slowly and sweetly change his perspective.
Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman, 1988, Caldecott Medal
A grandfather opens the attic door to yesteryear in this Caldecott winning book beautifully illustrated by Stephen Gammell. An aging grandfather recalls his youth as a consummate vaudeville performer and gives a flawless demonstration of his tap and comedy routine to an audience of rapt and appreciative grandchildren.
Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say, 1993, Caldecott Medal
Japanese-American author and illustrator Allen Say tells his grandfather's life story with a simple, moving narrative and a series of intricately detailed portrait-style paintings. Say powerfully conveys the experience of an immigrant in a beloved adoptive country who simultaneously longs for the land of his birth.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith, 2011, Caldecott Honor
Wondrous and whimsical topiaries representing each stage of his garden-loving, horticulturist great-grandfather’s life accompany one little boy’s affectionate, admiring recounting of his family history. Tender and soul-stirring, this picture book is a celebration of life, memory, and the ties that bind one generation to the next.
The Lost House and Others, 2016 by B.B. Cronin
Irish author and artist B.B. Cronin's "Lost" books are a fancifully illustrated series of Seek and Find books featuring a game and intrepid if muddled, Grandad, and his two willing grandchildren who must find a number of misplaced objects before embarking on a series of adventures. Each scene, reminiscent of the surrealist animation style of the 1930s, is incredibly detailed and will appeal to fans of I Spy, Can You See What I See, and Where's Waldo.
Looking for Yesterday by Alison Jay, 2017
"Granddad, can you help me find the way back to yesterday?" A wise and loving grandfather shows his scientifically minded grandson the value of treasuring happy memories of days past while appreciating the potential of today and the promise of tomorrow. Alison Jay's dreamlike prose and fantastical illustrations will stir the heart and imagination of young and old alike.
Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol, 2016, Caldecott Honor
By turns hilarious and touching, this clever story shows the lengths an elderly grand person with a very, very large family will go to for a little peace and quiet—and the further lengths she will go to return to her loved ones.
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner, 1980
This is an exciting, face-paced little story of the heroic actions of a brave young boy and his fearless dog, Searchlight. It has become a favorite of our grammar school students, and is perfect for a family read-aloud! When his grandfather succumbs to a mysterious illness, ten-year-old Willy sets out to run the struggling potato farm himself and find a way to pay the taxes that threaten to take it away. The annual National Dogsled Races in Jackson, Wyoming, just might be the key to saving both the farm—and his Grandfather.
Chicken Sunday and Others by Patricia Polacco, 1992
Chicken Sunday, read annually in the library to our 4th-grade students during Holy Week, is, like many of Polacco’s warm, candid, and wonderfully illustrated picture books, a personal reminiscence of the author’s own childhood. After the death of her beloved Babushka, Miss Eula becomes a surrogate grandmother to Trisha; opening her home on “Chicken Sundays,” sharing her love, her faith, her gentle wisdom with her “baby dears:” Trisha and Miss Eula’s grandsons Stewart and Winston, Trisha’s two closest friends. The three children are eager to satisfy Miss Eula’s desire for a beautiful Easter bonnet she passes each Sunday in the store window of Jewish-Ukrainian shopkeeper, Mr. Kandinsky. But when Trisha and the boys are falsely accused of an act of criminal mischief, they must find a way of facing the victimized shopkeeper, proving their innocence and, perhaps, finding some means of fulfilling Miss Eula’s Easter wish. Chicken Sunday is a story of the power of kindness and understanding and the rewards of courage and sacrifice.
Theater Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, 1944
Written and published at the height of World War II, this charming children's novel by the author of Ballet Shoes introduces the Forbes siblings: Sorrel, Mark & Holly, three motherless youngsters sent to live with their maternal grandmother when their father, an officer in the Navy, goes missing and their paternal grandfather dies suddenly. To their shock, their mother's people, hitherto unknown to the children, prove to be a famous theater family, and the children are sent to the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training in London to learn the family business. Grandmother Warren is a very grand, eccentric, aging theater actress, and the Warren family hilariously evoke famous acting families such as the Barrymores or the Redgraves. As with all of Streatfeild's books, the world of the stage is brought to life and made imminently relatable, drawing the reader into the experiences of budding young performers and thespians.
Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle, 1960
A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L’Engle’s Meet the Austins introduces a young Vicky Austin, who will go on to appear in four more of the Austin Family Chronicles, including the Newbery Honor young adult novel A Ring of Endless Light (1980). Meet the Austins is a good old-fashioned family story, void of the mystery, suspense, or science fantasy elements that mark the other books in the series (and L’Engel’s other works). However, it has the same sense of wonder, of awe in the sheer beauty of creation, of delight in the good gifts of family: of laughter, good books, beautiful music—of love, labor, and self-sacrifice. The Austins are not a perfect family, and Vicky is not a perfect heroine. Still, the heart of what makes them a genuinely happy family is best expressed at the end of the novel as the children and their parents are enjoying a lovely summer holiday respite on the island home of the family patriarch. Though he appears only toward the end of the book, the influence of Grandfather Eaton, a widower and retired minister, upon his family is evident: his keen insight and understanding, his love for books and his passion for knowledge, but above all, his love for God and selfless love of others is felt throughout the story, indeed throughout all the Austin family stories. In the loft where the grandchildren sleep in his home (a converted stable), Grandfather has painted a poem by the late-Victorian poet T.E. Brown called “Indwelling” about emptying oneself of self, “that God might fill thee with Himself instead.” In A Ring of Endless Light, this poem appears again as an older teenage Vicky wrestles with her beloved Grandfather’s terminal illness, with the reality of death itself.
Note: A Ring of Endless Light, though darker, more difficult in themes and content and thus more appropriate for high school readers, is nevertheless one of L’Engle’s most beautiful novels and also highly recommended.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, 1964
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the best known and loved of Dahl's works (a favorite here at CCA and one of our 3rd-grade class novels) and for good reason. There is a lot of heart and truth at the center of a gloriously, often ridiculously rich and chocolatey shell of a story. Early on in the book, Charlie's home life is described, and what would otherwise be Dickensian in its bleakness is made rather warm, safe, and pleasant in its depiction of family. Charlie, his parents, and grandparents undoubtedly suffer extreme hardship, but they are happy and rich in love. Charlie is profoundly influenced by his four grandparents—by their patience in suffering, their knowledge, their joy in his company, their sacrificial love. It is this that forms his character and prepares him for the opportunity and the brighter future that lie ahead. (And Charlie touches his grandparents in turn. The effect that Charlie has on his Grandpa Joe is described thus "when Charlie, his beloved grandson, was in the room, he seemed in some marvelous way to grow quite young again. All his tiredness fell away from him, and he became as eager and excited as a young boy.”) Readers will thrill to Charlie's adventures in Wonka's factory, delighting in the comeuppance of his spoiled, greedy rivals and their overindulgent parents and rejoicing in the final rewarding of such a "good sensible, loving child." "Hallelujah!" as Grandpa Joe would say. "Praise the Lord!"
Sun & Spoon by Kevin Henkes, 1997
A tender and thoughtful story of a grieving boy and his family grappling with the recent loss of their beloved matriarch. Caldecott winning and Newbery Honor author/illustrator Kevin Henkes lends his gentle wit and insight into human nature to this quietly profound little novel. 10-year-old Spoon has been dreaming of his Gram and fears forgetting her forever. His quest to obtain the perfect object to remember her by leads him on a personal journey towards a better knowledge of himself, compassion for others, and a greater understanding of and connection to his departed grandmother. Note: This book presents a perfect opportunity for families to talk about grief and grieving, and the great hope of heaven we have in Christ as believers.
It’s the 1930’s, the era of Al Capone and John Dillinger. City-wise young Chicagoans Joey and his sister Mary Alice, though initially put out at the idea of spending a week each summer with Grandma Dowdel in her small-town Illinois home in the middle of nowhere, soon learn that Chicago has nothing on their Grandma, whose exploits become more legendary with every visit. In the spirit of Mark Twain or Flannery O’Connor, the tales of Grandma Dowdel are outrageous, hilarious, and often surprisingly moving. Along with Joey and Mary Alice, we breathlessly watch Grandma take on the establishment, dispense her own brand of social justice, right the wrongs in town and deliver endless, side-splitting entertainment along the way.
Three Bird Summer by Sara St. Antoine, 2014
An absorbing little story about a quiet, deeply introspective boy’s developing connection to a world he has viewed from the outside. 12-year-old Adam has trouble fitting in and is perplexed by the unspoken rules of social engagement at school and elsewhere. The wilds of his family’s summer retreat in Minnesota make more sense to him, and he looks forward to another summer of sitting on the dock, watching the loons, content to let others engage as he observes. But a recent division in his close-knit family, the gradual and mysterious mental failings of his strong, proud, “testy” Grandma and an unexpected friendship goad him into action, into growing up, into participation with the world, into risking and living in a way he’s never done before. An important element in his awakening is seeing his Grandma for the first time as a person, not just a grandmother there to fuss at him, tease him and make him pancakes, but a person with a story, a past worth learning and a present worth engaging. Part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, this book will linger in the heart and mind long after it is finished.
"Oh my goodness!" to quote Louisiana Elefante. This series, by the Newbery award-winning author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, is middle grade/young adult literature at its best. All three novels, set in the 1970s era South, gently touch hard topics (albeit quite subtly and sensitively): loss of parents, child abandonment, even abuse. But themes of hope and grace abound, and at their most confused and lost, the main characters find acceptance, love, and family. Each of the three title characters, in some form or fashion, is let down or left behind by her biological parents. But guardian figures, vessels of grace, abound in these novels, most often in the form of grandparent figures: Old Mrs. Borkowski in Raymie Nightingale, Louisiana's deeply complex Granny and kindly Grandfather Burke in Louisiana’s Way Home, Iola Jenkins in Beverly, Right Here; each, respectively, having a profound effect on each of the titular characters—sensitive and bookish Raymie, fanciful, loving Louisiana and hard-edged yet fearless Beverly—helping them discover their true selves, showing them that they are wanted and needed, bringing them hope, happiness, and home.
Note: the books progress in intensity of themes/content along right with the main characters’ ages in each book. The girls are 10 in the first book Raymie Nightingale, 12 years old in Louisiana’s Way Home and 14 in Beverly, Right Here and are best fit for middle grade and (in the case of Beverly, Right Here) high-school aged readers.
Genevieve's War by Patricia Reilly Giff, 2017
Readers will have a difficult time putting down this page-turning World War II era novel by the two-time Newbery honor winning author of Lily's Crossing. Young New Yorker Genevieve, on holiday at her grandmother's farm in Alcase, France, makes a last-minute decision to stay with her stern, determined Mémé, sacrificing a final opportunity to return to the States before the Germans advance upon their village. Spanning six years, it is at once a moving journey of self-discovery, of a teenage girl's growing courage, resilience, and resourcefulness in the face of a constant and unspeakable threat; a story of the beautiful unfolding of a relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother; as well as an exciting tale of adventure and espionage in the beautiful French countryside.
Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie Lapointe, 2015 (English translation, 2017)
Grandfather and the Moon by French Canadian singer and actress Stéphanie Lapointe and illustrator Rogé is an oddly lovely graphic story of one girl’s tender relationship with her grandfather. It explores the ways in which loss, grief and aging impact our relationships, and the enduring struggle of both the young and old alike to meet the (sometimes perceived) high expectations of our loved ones. It ends on a profoundly hopeful note, with a quiet mutual expression of unconditional support, acceptance, and love.
Have another favorite grandparent themed book or story to share you don't see above? We'd love to hear about it in the comments! We'd also love to hear about any special plans your family has made to serve, share, and celebrate this Easter. Resurrection Blessings to you all!
“Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that to go on living I have to tell stories, that stories are the one sure way I know to touch the heart and change the world.”
— Dorothy Allison, American writer, speaker, and member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers