We recently came across a gem of a children's picture book from the library called simply, Grandpa, by Lilith Norman and illustrated by Noela Young. The realism of the text and illustrations is quite startling.
The story is a child's reflections about his cantankerous grandfather who lives with his family and occupies the boy's bedroom. It spares no detail on the fragile nature of his parent's relationship with his grandfather, their irritation with his fusty presence, including his conservative preference for meals of 'meat and three veg' which constrains their cooking and eating habits. The boy shares some of this irritation but more equably, as children do. Then Grandpa falls ill and is hospitalised. The bedside scene is poignant. When Grandpa dies, the family misses his idiosyncrysies. We see his mother weeping and, to close the story, the boy decides to take in to school some of the treasured items that Grandpa had made him and to share his fond memories with his classmates.
I am always grateful for books which deal sensitively, but accurately, with the sadder aspects of life, for none of us are spared these experiences. It is no wonder that this book was awarded an Honour book in the 1999 Children's Book Council Awards and the winner of the 1999 Family Therapy Associations of Australia Family Award for Young Children.
There is precious little information online about Ms Norman, who did not reach the dizzy heights of celebrity as some children's authors do, but I found this quote in my web meanderings:
Lilith Norman creates works for children that are consistent in their loving portrayal of the author's native Australian landscape and their realistic young protagonists. A librarian by profession, Norman did not begin writing for children until she was in her forties. "I managed to avoid becoming a writer for quite a long time, mainly, I think, because it seemed like very hard work for a very speculative result," she said. "It wasn't until I started working as a children's librarian that I realised these were the books I wanted to write. . . . I like to write about ordinary children trying to cope, for I believe that most of us can cope with whatever is thrown at us, if we really have to--otherwise we'd all be living in caves still."Ms Norman, who would be now aged about 83, wrote many children's books from the 1970s to 1990s. We will be sure to search for more in our library fossickings.