Saturday, April 19, 2008

Is Grandpa Wearing a Suit?

Oh, this one is a toughy. Books for children, written about death, are never the easiest to review, but this one was especially difficult for me. There were definite aspects that I liked and thought were done well, but others I most definitely did not like. Having won quite a few awards in Germany, including the German Award for Most Beautiful Picture Book and the German Picture Book Award, this book appears to be a winner to some, maybe it just fell short with me.

Is Grandpa Wearing a Suit?
is written by Amelie Fried and illustrated by Jacky Gleich. The basic story is that Bruno’s grandpa has passed away and the process of a funeral and burial are taking place. Bruno isn’t really sure what death is and though many adults try to explain it to him, he just continues to become more and more confused. I liked how he seemed to go through accurate emotions like anger, loneliness, confusion, and finally acceptance of the death. Age appropriate questions were asked, such as why all the adults were crying and who was going to comfort them and whether grandpa is in Heaven or in the ground. How could he possibly be in both places?

Now on to the things I did like. The text was sooooo long on each page. For the age level of this book, a child is simply not going to sit still that long to listen to a huge paragraph of text. My text little complaint is the illustrations. Though beautifully done, they are a bit haunting and could almost be scary to young children. The adults eyes are frightening and remind me a little bit of the Coraline book (though Coraline was written for middle graders).

Though this is great book conceptually, I personally don’t think it works out in the end. The questions Bruno asks about his grandfather’s death are spot on, but the text is way too long and the illustrations a little mature for younger children. If you have recently had a death in your family and want to teach your children about, possibly using this book, make sure you preview it first, just to make sure you think it’s appropriate for their age level. Don’t just take my word for it!

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