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Grandpa Green

by Lane Smith

Publishers Weekly In this reflective tale, Smith (It's a Book) departs from his customary irony to muse on the memories, talents, and traditions passed down through generations. Smith's young narrator, in overalls and rubber boots, describes his great-grandfather. The boy waters plants and tidies up in a magnificent topiary garden, lined in delicate ink and decorated with ornamental hedges in the shapes of people, animals, and iconic objects. "He was born a really long time ago, before computers or cell phones or television," says the boy, and the first topiary depicts a crying baby. Other creations include rabbit- and chicken-shaped shrubs to suggest a childhood farm; a head-shaped bush dotted with red berries ("In fourth grade he got chicken pox"); and an erupting cannon to signify wartime. Smith works in an impressionistic range of emerald, moss, and seaweed hues, memorializing Grandpa Green's life events in meticulously pruned shrubs. The child eventually catches up with an elderly man who "sometimes forgets things. But the important stuff, the garden remembers for him." It's a rare glimpse into Smith's softer side-as skillful as his more sly offerings, but crafted with honesty and heart. Ages 5-9. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-A boy tells the story of his great-grandfather's life as he gives readers a grand tour of the man's glorious topiary garden. Verdant shades predominate but graceful pen-and-ink drawings and colorful accents lend interest and whimsy to the towering constructions. (Aug.) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list The idea of a garden as a lockbox of memories is not a new one, but rarely is it pulled off with this kind of panache. Lane drops us into a story of an unnamed person. He was born a really long time ago, before computers or television. Who we see, though, is a fairly modern-looking boy tending to an increasingly impressive topiary garden featuring creations sculpted to visualize each stage of the person's life. Chicken pox are represented by berries across a humanlike shrub's face. Going off to war is visualized by a cannon-shaped shrub with branches shooting from its muzzle. Sketched with a finely lined fairy-tale wispiness and dominated by verdant green, the illustrations are not just creative but poignant especially after it is revealed that the boy is the great-great-grandson of the old man whose life is being described, and whose failing memories are contained in this garden (most impressively in a four-page fold-out spread). Possibly a bit disorienting for the very young, but the perfect book to help kids understand old age.--Kraus, Danie. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-A clever premise, brilliant pacing, and whimsical illustrations offer a distinctive look at the life and artistic vision of one great-grandfather. A boy recounts the essential facts of the man's life: "He was born a really long time ago." "After high school his wish was to study horticulture." The imaginative art fills in what the words leave out by ingeniously chronicling Grandpa's story through the fanciful topiaries he creates. The sinewy tree limbs in black line have a sculptural quality, while airy line art drawn in a subtle palette depicting the boy, his great-grandfather, and the general landscape of the garden allow the fantastic creations to stand out. From the formal design of boxwood mazes to fantasy-inspired hedges, Smith uses a broad range of green hues and textures to create ornamental foliage that is inventive and charming. There is harmony in the overall design yet each page surprises and delights. Discerning viewers will identify a playful homage to The Wizard of Oz. Other more quirky creations may be open to interpretation. As he narrates his great-grandfather's story, the boy strolls through the garden picking up the pieces of Grandpa's trade, a garden glove here, a watering can there-Grandpa is getting forgetful. With a powerfully charged and perfectly placed line-"But the important stuff, the garden remembers for him"-readers are treated to a dramatic double gatefold revealing the panorama of Grandpa's life depicted in the living sculptures. Visually intriguing and emotionally resonant, this is a book to pore over and talk about. With each subsequent reading, it offers new layers of meaning and visual connections.-Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.