Grandma is a Slowpoke by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Michele Coxon. Star Bright Books, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2015.
Being four-years-old apparently means inventing “games,” in which my granddaughter and I have different names and parts to play. Many times these games are based on Disney Princesses and their adventures and challenges. When we arrive at her house each day we are never sure who will meet us at the door. Will it be Elsa from Frozen or Rapunzel from Tangled? And then there’s Elena. I’m not entirely sure who she is. But I digress.
In just the past week she’s taken to acting out books I’ve read to her. Today was a sheer delight. When I first showed her Grandma is a Slowpoke, she said I could read it after our “game.” But we weren’t too far into that adventure when she picked up this book and asked me to read it. “Then we can make that our game” she said. I was thrilled. I’d been waiting for just the right moment to read this book. Today couldn’t have been better. The sky was blue, humidity non-existent and the temperature hovered around 76 degrees. A perfect day to read about a little girl and her grandma taking a walk and learning about nature from each other.
After I was finished, she looked at me eagerly and asked, “Can we go to a park and make a game out of this story?” I was exhausted. Between trying to get my planting done and keeping my house in some modicum of order during a major kitchen remodel, I was ready for a nap. But I knew the time was right and these moments don’t always occur when you’re completely rested. Who is ever completely rested anyway?
We have a small woodland park near our house that several neighbors take care of. New wood chips had recently been laid down on the walking paths. So the two of us set off. I stopped to point out flowers and birds like the grandma in the book. And she answered each time, “Yes, Grandma.” She loved being in the woods and as I watched her run down the path with pure joy I was so glad I’d mustered up the energy to come. I definitely was the slowpoke, but she didn’t seem to care. When we returned she explained to her mom that we’d seen two kinds of flowers, a robin, and we heard, but didn’t see, a very noisy woodpecker.
The illustrations in this book, with their realistic detail of the busy mom with a baby and a house full of loving messiness, add so much to the story. Those pictures alone, without words, show how important the walk in the woods with Grandma is to the little girl. In this way, Halfmann has captured the essence of the child/grandparent relationship. This is a wonderfully sweet book and the perfect book to read now, during this season of sun and warmth. If you have a grandchild, or any child, in your life, run out and get a copy. Before the snow flies!