Grandpa Green by Lane Smith is a story told through topiary. (I’ve never seen that before). A young boy walks through his great Grandpa’s topiary garden which tells Grandpa Green’s life story. Looking a the topiaries, he learns a story about a bygone era. He learns about a time with no cell phones, no computers, no television… a long, long time ago. The topiaries tell Grandpa’s lifestory, a love story, and the story of a war hero. Although Grandpa now has a hard time remembering, the garden remembers the important stuff for him.
Before reading this book, I had read a lot of reviews of the book. I thought that it might be too sad. In contrast, I think the adults are the ones who are going to be saddened and nostalgic by this book—especially if they have lost a favorite grandparent. For kids, I think this book can be more about building special memories and telling family stories in creative ways. Who knows, your kids might be surprised to know that you grew up in a time without facebook or cell phones. This book could be a great way to get conversations going with your kids about your own family history.
Extend the book:
Family Trivia: When I was a kid, my Grandma made up a game called family trivia. It was a way to keep a bazillion grandkids entertained while the rest of the adults played cards. Grandma Hunn would think up a bunch of questions about her kids (my Aunts and Uncles). There were questions like:
“Which Hunn kid had 2 siblings who painted her face with black shoe polish?”
“Which Hunn kid had bunny sheets to keep her safe from monsters?”
“Which Hunn kid was kidnapped on the way home from school?” (Don’t worry, it was a happy ending)
“Which Hunn kid avoided being kidnapped by going straight home to watch The Lone Ranger?”(We LOVED the kidnapping story)
“Which Hunn kid had the nickname Evley Hunnley?”
Grandma would ask the questions and then all of us kids would run around bugging the adults. “Were you the person who had bunny sheets?” we’d ask. The parents would grumble a little as we interrupted their card game, but eventually we would get an answer. If we were lucky a story would break out. The adults would all laugh and relive their childhood memories.
Sometimes the adults were too involved in the card game. When that happened, we would get a one word answer. We always knew we could run that answer back to Grandma and she would give us the full story.
Passing on family stories orally is a great way to build literacy in your child. It helps him learn comprehension skills like sequencing, visualizing, making connections, and synthesizing. It helps him to generate ideas for his own written stories.
Years later, when all of us little cousins were grown up, one of my cousin’s created a trivia box for all of Grandma’s questions. Now those memories can be passed on to another generation.
Here’s where I am linking up: