Listen to the Recess! Clip
Coming up this weekend is Grandparents Day on Sunday — a day for celebrations, and a good time to mention several of the fine books that have appeared recently about children and their interactions with the senior members of our families. A little girl is dropped off at her grandfather’s house at the beginning of Ann Witford Paul’s picture book, Everything to Spend the Night, and the fun starts as the the child drags a large duffel bag up the front walk. She has packed 26 overnight necessities into it, one for every letter of the alphabet, and before she’s even entered the house, she has begun to unload her treasures, much to the bemusement of her Grandfather. Apples are first, followed quickly by a stuffed bear and a bunny. Soon the yard and, eventually, all the rooms of the house are filled with her belongings. By the time she gets to her music box and the letter “M”, she is dancing to the rhymes that she has created, non-stop, since her arrival. Grandfather is dancing too, and so are we. The illustrator, Maggie Smith, has captured the essence of this playful exuberance in her lively, tender pictures — right down to the last “Z’s” that bring this recitation to its sleepy and contented end.
In Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! Cari Best builds her story around a little girl (Sarah), her closeness to her Russian grandmother (the Catherine of the title), and the festivities that Sarah and her mother plan for grandmother’s birthday. Catherine has stipulated that hers is to be a no present, borscht and blini party. The guests — family and the kind folks of their apartment building — are only allowed to bring gifts of love — nothing that they have to spend any money on. It’s a request that leads to unusually imaginative and utterly touching tokens of affection for this generous-hearted, immigrant grandmother — who, in the words of a poem Sarah has written for her, “sailed here on a boat, arrived with no money, Or warm winter coat.” This is a remarkable book, seasoned with unforgettable ingredients, with whispers of the old world that has begun to find its voice in the new, with poetry and pictures that are unexpected, vivid, and altogether perfect. Three cheers for this book, and for all those remarkable grandparents who give us the present of their lives, for the stories to fill our homes.