I’ve read two good books recently for middle grade kids that focus on children’s relationships with their grandparents.
The Vegetable Museum by Michelle Mulder introduces us to 13 year old Chloe who has just moved to Victoria, British Columbia. Her Dad has lost his job as a teacher in Montreal and he and Chloe’s Mom have separated. Chloe and her Dad have resettled in Victoria where her Dad has a new job as the superintendent of an apartment building.
The apartment is very near Chloe’s grandfather Uli’s house. Chloe barely knows him because, for a reason that remains a secret till the end of the book, Chloe’s Dad and his father are estranged. The thing that brings Chloe and her Grandpa together and helps them get to know each other is her grandfather’s heirloom vegetable garden. He saves seeds and has a unique garden of heritage plants. Chloe’s Grandpa has had a stroke recently and he needs help with his garden so Chloe pitches in to lend a hand with planting and weeding. Later she will be instrumental in saving her grandfather’s seed collection when its survival is threatened.
The garden becomes a way not only for Chloe to get to know her grandfather better but to make friends and get to know her Victoria neighbourhood better as well. Her grandfather has told Chloe that when she finds a place in the heart of her new community she will really like it. He turns out to be right.
One of the reasons I felt a connection with this book is because my Dad was a big time gardener and all his grandkids ended up helping him with various gardening tasks. I think they learned a lot from that experience.
Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field by Angela Ahn is about an eleven year old boy from a Korean family in the Vancouver area. Like Chloe, Peter and his parents and his sister also live close to his grandparents. But unlike Chloe who barely knows her grandfather, Peter’s grandparents are a daily part of his life, and have been since he was a baby.
Peter wants to be a palentologist but he also loves drawing. When he finds out that his grandmother’s strange behaviour means she has dementia he uses both the organizational, research and observation skills he’s learned studying dinosaurs, and the artistic skills he’s been honing and exploring, to come up with a plan to help his grandma remain in her own home rather than move to a senior’s residence quite a distance away where he won’t get to see her nearly as often.
Peter’s dealing with some tough personal stuff too. There’s a braggart and bully in his school class who likes to pick on him and he’s feeling inadequate compared to his sister who is a whiz kid with an IQ off the charts. As he works to help his Grandma some of those issues resolve as well.
One of the reasons I felt a connection with this book is because my Dad is dealing with dementia as well and I have been thinking about how different he will seem to his grandchildren and great grandchildren after the pandemic when they can visit him again.
The relationship between children and their grandparents is often painted as a kind of idealistic one in books for kids, with grandparents coming to the rescue of grandchildren who are going through tough times. But in these two novels it’s the kids who come to the rescue and make life better for their grandparents.
Two other middle grade books about grandparents and grandchildren are……