Grandpa Green

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Grandpa Green Book Poster Image
Man's life is lovingly recalled by his grandson and garden.

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Kids say

age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids learn that you can use garden shears to shape bushes into recognizable forms (topiary) and that older people may forget things. 

Positive Messages

A person has many different experiences in life. And when someone gets old, he may forget little things -- like where he left his hat -- but his legacy remains in the life he led and the people he loved. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The grandfather in Grandpa Green led a good life that included going to war, falling in love and getting married, having children and grandchildren, and creating and tending a beautiful garden. The grandson narraror is loving, kind, patient, and compassionate, and he takes up the job of tending the garden.   

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Grandpa Green won a 2012 Caldecott Honor for its exceptional combination of art and story. As the boy narrator recalls his grandfather's life, the memories come alive in the topiary sculptures in his garden. The book is subtle and clever, working on many levels visually and communicating the deep love and respect a young boy has for his grandpa. 

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old March 28, 2014

the best book ever!

it is the best book i look at it and i reaed the book and it is great i think u should read!

What's the story?

A young boy lovingly narrates the story of his grandfather's life, illustrated in the topiary sculptures in his garden. There's lots to look at as the boy recounts how the man grew up on a farm (we see a topiary carrot), got chicken pox in fourth grade (red berries on a green bush shaped like a boy), went to war (a topiary airplane and a man descending in a parachute), got married, had grandkids, etc. -- all the memories expressed in fancifully sculpted green shrubs. Everything in the past appears in topiary, while everything in the present is a line drawing -- the boy, the grandfather, his forgotten glasses and hat, and a tree that subtly grows and changes, getting older and gnarlier as the story proceeds. In the end, the boy finally takes up the shears and sculpts a bush into the image of Grandpa Green.

Is it any good?

Winner of a 2012 Caldecott Honor for outstanding picture book, GRANDPA GREEN works on many levels. It's a thoughtful reflection on the life of an older person; a beautiful expression of a meaningful, loving relationship between grandfather and grandson; and a visually dazzling, fun book for kids to enjoy just for the many imaginative creations on the pages. This would be a great book for a grandparent and child to read together, or for a parent and child to read and discuss memories of the grandparents in their lives. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the life story of the grandparents in their lives. Could it be told in sculpted bushes? What turning points would there be to highlight? 

  • How well do you remember things you've done? What makes a memory stand out? Why do older people  sometimes forget what happened yesterday but can remember stories from their childhood quite clearly? What do you think you'll remember most from your life so far? 

  • In Grandpa Green, it looks like the boy will end up tending his grandfather's garden. Does one of your grandparents have a skill that you can learn and carry on? 

  • Why do you think Grandpa Green won an award as one of the best picture books of the year? 

Book details

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