While Grandpa Naps
Naomi Danis and Jungwa Park's WHILE GRANDPA NAPS (POW! Kids, 32 pp., $17.99; ages 4 to 8) recounts a single afternoon outside in which a little boy watches his widowed grandfather sleep in a hammock. The book gently captures the child's experience of loss, rooted in shifting emotions and unfinished observations.
The boy remembers and forgets his grandmother, notices sadness in others and occasionally feels it himself. "I remember how she used to shake her head, run her fingers through her long silvery hair." But he is also alive with the frank reality of being a child: "I find some bugs and beetles, but even better I find some wriggling worms." Park's visuals capture this impressionistic honesty, from the harsh red lines under the grandfather's eyes to the shocked grins she puts on the faces of the bugs.
Most tender is the protective way the boy watches his grandfather sleep, sensing the man's own frail mortality. "If a fly comes stepping with its sticky feet across Grandpa's bald forehead — whoosh — I will blow it away. If an ant comes crawling from his shoes up his pants leg I will gently brush it." Here, the loss of a loved one is no grand event, but a fine, gleaming thread in the fabric of everyday life.
"It's evident from the cover just how devoted Gilbert is to his task. Readers are carried right into the story with him sitting and staring at his grandpa. Gilbert isn't smiling, and he's sitting very straight in his chair, attentive to his job. There's no question that there is a strong bond between the two family members, and many of the spreads are framed around just the two of them. The illustrations are colorful and sweet, featuring interesting angles and emotive characters."