Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Grandad’s Island

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Grandad’s Island is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Benji Davies, and published by Simon and Schuster, 2015. I have previously reviewed Davies’ The Storm Whale and On Sudden Hill.

From the publisher:

After the phenomenal success of The Storm Whale and On Sudden Hill, this new book by Benji Davies deals with the emotional topic of losing a grandparent. Subtly told, this beautifully illustrated book tackles a difficult subject with great sensitivity and depth.

Death is never mentioned in Grandad’s Island. In fact, I think that one of the many wonderful things about this book is that kids who have it read to them can take away from it what they want. The island may be a metaphor for life after death. Or not. The fact is that Syd goes on a magical journey with Grandpa to this amazing island and shares it for a while with him. When Grandad decides to stay on the island and not return to his home near Syd’s house, Syd is sad, but accepts the situation.

However, Grandad’s Island is not a sad book. It’s ultimately joyous and uplifting. The colours chosen by Davies, particularly for scenes on the island, radiate a positive message. The final scene is after Syd gets back from the island. This time, although Grandad’s house is empty, Syd hears a tapping on the window. He discovers a post card with a very happy Grandpa, an orang-utan, a snake and some birds.

As usual, Davies’ illustrations are gorgeous. My favourite was the two page spread where we see Grandad assuring Syd he won’t be lonely on the island. His new tropical home is a riot of squawking parrots, frogs, ants, butterflies, a tortoise, the orang-utan (reading in a hammock!), an elephant and other critters, as well as home comforts like a deckchair, a book, a cup of tea and an old-fashioned gramophone. The area is studded with vibrant flowers, and close by we can see Grandad’s shack. I love that reading is subtly celebrated in Grandad’s Island, and also the emphasis on the closeness and shared joy between grandfather and grandson.

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