Told with loving respect for a grandmother whose life reflected a quiet but deeply-rooted inclusivity and tolerance, My Grandma and Me serves up a slice of family history and introduces readers to a country and culture rarely seen in children’s books.
When Mina was growing up in Iran, her beloved Grandma lived with the family and was Mina’s constant companion. It was Grandma who listened to Mina chattering about her games, who knitted blankets, cooked and sewed chadors, and readers will warm to Javaherbin’s loving reminiscences. But Mina’s grandma doesn’t just bake cookies and her presence on these pages is more nuanced than it first appears. It’s Grandma who winches the family’s bread delivery in a basket to their third-floor flat. Her best friend is Christian – the blankets they make together are destined for both mosque and church – and Mina’s allowed to use Grandma’s chadors as astro-explorer capes and drapes for dens. In fact, Grandma seems to welcome Mina’s rough-and-tumble games.
Grandma’s sphere was domestic and her routine regulated by religious beliefs and family commitments, but her openness to other ways of thinking and living are one of the key features of this book. Javaherbin has selected her anecdotes with care and the character she portrays is fully-rounded. Calm, tolerant, interested in the world and slightly mischievous, Grandma is someone we’d all like to know.
Lindsey Yankey’s charming illustrations combine surface decoration with areas of clear space, enhancing rather than overwhelming Javaherbin’s text. Patterns and textures in an aged palette are drawn from carpets, textiles and printed papers to add a multisensory feel – the smell of fresh bread is suggested by the pattern-echoes on the wall behind the loaves, for example, and the blue-tiled mosque reflects the chattering below.
It’s a pleasure to sink into these pages and dream of places far-away and long-ago, and this gem of a picturebook will appeal to a wide age-range – including teachers and carers (particularly grandparents!) who will appreciate the potential for cross-generational reminiscing and discussion.