There’s something irresistible about lively children paired with older adults—be it a grandparent or older neighbor—inexperience juxtaposed with wisdom; wonder with certainty. Together such a duo possesses all the ingredients of some of life’s most meaningful connections. Many of us are lucky enough to have fond memories of beloved grandparents. I can still recall the tea rose scent of my grandma’s perfume and how she always made me feel beloved in her presence. We live in those memories long after such loved ones have departed.
In honor of Grandparent’s Day coming up on September 8th, here are twelve children’s books that celebrate lasting intergenerational relationships through the lens of diverse characters and cultures. May these books inspire you to snuggle in with a close-to-home grandparent or read one aloud with a faraway relative.
1 | THE LINES ON NANA’S FACE BY SIMONA CIRAOLO
On Nana’s birthday, a young granddaughter wonders about the lines creasing her Nana’s face. To this, Nana responds that those are where she keeps her memories. Crease by crease, the two reminisce about what each line means, sharing glimpses of Nana’s past, culminating in a family gathering to celebrate one more year of Nana’s full life.
2 | NANA IN THE CITY BY LAUREN CASTILLO
It’s hard to argue with a Caldecott winner. This one, by one of our favorite author/illustrators, features a young boy headed off to visit his Nana’s new apartment in the city for the first time. While the boy loves his Nana, he isn’t enamored of the urban cacophony of city life. When his Nana makes him a cape, soon the city is transformed, and the young boy feels powerful in his new surroundings. Be sure to listen to the accompanying Emily Arrow Storytime Singalong track that turns this picture book (and many others) into beloved songs.
3 | THE REMEMBER BALLOONS BY JESSIE OLIVEROS
A young boy has more balloons than his brother, and inside each balloon is a memory—his favorite holds his last birthday party. Mom and Dad have more balloons, but Grandpa, who has lived so long, has more balloons than anyone. The stories inside each balloon make Grandpa’s eyes light up, and memories from youth spring to life with each retelling. But recently Grandpa has been having trouble with his balloons and retells the same story over and over again. Other times he’ll lose a balloon and not even know it. An empathic story that beautifully enables young children to understand memory loss in older adults.
4 | DRAWN TOGETHER BY MINH LÊ
A young boy spends the day with his grandfather; however, a language barrier and supposed lack of common interests keep the two apart. Until that is, they see each other for the first time in the drawings they create. Soon pen and ink transform into a world saturated with emotion, where grandfather and grandson each add layers and meaning to a place where they can be together without words.
5 | GRANDPA’S TOP THREES BY WENDY MEDDOUR
In an effort to get his grandpa’s attention, Henry asks Grandpa what his top three sandwiches are (tuna fish, egg salad, and beetroot). While the two eat lunch together, Henry goes on to ask what Grandpa’s top three jellyfish are. Finally, Grandpa joins Henry to play trains, and the next morning the two explore Henry’s top three days. As the two continue to bond, they converse about missing Grandma and share a tender exchange.
6 | I REALLY WANT TO SEE YOU, GRANDMA BY TARO GOMI
Yumi wants to see Grandma. Grandma wants to see Yumi. So without a thought, they both head out to see one another, only to miss each other. Rushing home, they hope to catch each other, but again are stymied by time and space. At last, the two reunite under a tree and vow that that will be their spot whenever they want to see each other. Such a sweet story told with expressive images and vibrant color.
7 | I LOVE MY GLAM-MA! BY SAMANTHA BERGER
A jubilant celebration of all the small (and BIG) ways grandmas make ordinary days feel extraordinary. Follow a series of energetic matriarchs that turn outings into adventures, purses into treasure troves, and afternoon playdates into fashion shows and festive fêtes. With illustrations that pulse with merriment, this book is fun for all ages.
8 | TINY, PERFECT THINGS BY M. H. CLARK
Follow a young girl and her grandfather on a neighborhood outing, where together they explore the intricacies of perfectly formed items—wonders scattered throughout nature and beckoning to be seen by the careful observer. Each reading will reveal something new, as the illustrations are a true delight; not to mention how well this book pairs with a neighborhood walkabout.
9 | THE RETURN BY NATALIA CHERNYSHEVA
A young woman leaves the bustling city, boards a bus, and stops in a barren landscape with one lone house settled into the distant horizon. The girl approaches the house and garden and sees a familiar face. Once face-to-face, the girl stops and stoops to kiss her tiny grandmother. A wordless tale covering multiple years, The Return aptly depicts how enormous our grandparents seem when we are small, but how small they become as we grow.
10 | THANK YOU BY CHARO PITA
Isabella and her grandma are chatting, when Isabella says, “Grandma, you know everything. Tell me, why does the sea stop at the sand, instead of swallowing up the whole town with its watery mouth?” In reply, Grandma simply sits, letting the question hover in silence. Thus begins a series of questions, each issued from an inquisitive granddaughter to her seemingly all-knowing grandma. Finally, Isabella can take the silence no longer and begs Grandma to respond. With dignity and grace, Grandma admits her lack of knowledge on all subjects. She instead teaches her young progeny what it means to exist in gratitude and awe of the natural world, even when that may mean leaving an abundance of mysteries unanswered.
11 | OJIICHAN’S GIFT BY CHIERI UEGAKI
To celebrate her birth, Mayumi’s grandfather makes her a garden. Although it is halfway across the world and unlike any garden she has ever encountered, Mayumi spends months each summer getting to know Ojiichan and her peaceful rock garden oasis. As Ojiichan ages, he is faced with leaving his home, and Mayumi must navigate her anger about losing the garden and her beloved grandfather. In a moment of inspiration, Mayumi makes Ojiichan a gift that he can enjoy from his wheelchair. This touching look at lasting gifts is a cultural keepsake and one that may inspire a trip to a Japanese Garden.
12 | A GIFT FROM ABUELA BY CECILIA RUIZ
From the moment she is born, Abuela feels a special connection to her granddaughter, Nina. They frequently spend time together and enjoy making crafts and eating pan dulce in the park. Although life in Mexico is not easy, Abuela thinks how wonderful it would be to give Nina a special gift, so each week she saves pesos in a special spot, determined to scrape together enough money for a gift. Over time Nina and Abuela spend less time together. Then one day, when Nina is older, she stops by for a visit only to discover Abuela’s house in disarray. Nina cleans the house and surprises Abuela; she also tells Abuela about finding the hidden money. Together the duo puts the money to use, and each shares the priceless gift of rekindling time spent together. A truly heartfelt book.