Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Grandpa, by Marta Altes

My Grandpa is a very sweet and simple little story about a little bear and his grandpa bear. Grandpa bear is getting on a bit in years, and has trouble with one or two things, like feeling lonely or forgetting what an umbrella is for. Little bear takes all of this in his stride, simply accepting his grandpa for who he is and adapting his behaviour accordingly. And just because Grandpa bear isn’t as nimble on his feet as he used to be doesn’t mean that he and little bear can’t have fun together anymore.

One of the loveliest things about Marta Altes’s picture book is the give and take nature that Grandpa bear and the little bear have. In each part of the story, one thing is balanced out by another - for instance, sometimes Grandpa bear needs little bear to be his eyes, but sometimes Grandpa bear’s eyes see things that little bear doesn’t. Altes’s illustrations are as simple as her words - essentially using just three tones of colour that are muted without being washed out - and successfully add that little extra to the story by their presence.

Overall, My Grandpa is a nice way of introducing the concept of people growing old and that it's nothing to be afraid of. Gentle is the word that comes to mind. It also shows that just because at times they can be a little ditzy and may even get things mixed up, older people are still valid and to be valued; they still have love and enjoyment to give, just as it is important for us to give them love and appreciation in return. The book’s final words sum things up just nicely: “My Grandpa is getting old... But that’s how he is... and that’s why I love him.”

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