3 out of 4 stars
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Make Grandma Great Again, by Robin Rabii, shares one child’s quest to help her widowed grandmother find happiness again with a “compan-yun” that wears matching socks, remembers to take his medicine, and can tie his own shoes. Together with her friends, Susie and Tall Jenny, Amy sets in motion a plan that is ultimately successful, despite some unexpected twists and turns.
Rabii’s charming story has surprising depths that completely captivated me. The story teaches respect, acceptance, and tolerance for diversity. The best part is how this message is skillfully interwoven throughout. There is no preaching here. For example, in the illustrations, Amy’s mom is taller than her dad. It’s not what we’re used to seeing, but nothing is made of it. It is accepted as normal and the interaction between the parents is warm, loving, and playful.
Other harmful stereotypes are challenged throughout the story while bridges are built to acceptance. Tall Jenny is African-American, but her brown eyes are the same shade of brown as blonde Susie’s; her hair is actually brown, rather than black, and she is extremely intelligent. When the family goes to church, a throwaway line casually reveals the pastor is female. When Grandma ends up in the hospital, the nurse who is so kind to her is male. Finally, when Grandma does find a companion to bring her joy and romance, he is of a different race. The truly amazing testimony to Rabii’s skill as a writer, and what I liked best, is that none of these elements felt contrived or forced. Amy accepts them as natural, so the reader does, too.
The story brims with gentle humor; it’s told from Amy’s perspective, with a child’s innocent ignorance of certain adult words and situations. It takes an accomplished author to write a child’s “voice” convincingly but Rabii does it with such adept skill, it sounds perfectly natural. There is no over-writing of the character, making her sound artificially foolish or naïve. Scattered throughout the book are little nuggets of wisdom, well-stated life lessons that Amy learns from the important adults in her life.
One final point worth mentioning: most children’s books anymore have illustrations that are computer-generated. That’s fine, but there is a certain generic look to such illustrations that is easily recognizable. In Make Grandma Great Again, the artwork, like the text, is superior, being original artwork by Phillipa Haskins. It really contributes to the quality of the finished product.
There is so much to like in this delightful book that it breaks my heart I am required to count off a star due to the number of errors. Understand, however, that is the only reason for the loss of one star. There were no misspelled or grammatical errors. Aside from a single missing word, the rest of the errors had solely to do with the incorrect placement of quotation marks. Due to the sheer number of these errors, I can only award the book three out of four stars, but in every other respect it fully deserves four out of four stars.
If there is a child in your life, check out Make Grandma Great Again. It is, without exception, the best children’s book I’ve read in a long time.
Make Grandma Great Again
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