(Simon & Schuster Children’s Books)
Syd and his grandad have always been very close but one day when Syd goes to his house after school, he finds Grandad getting ready for a big adventure. Off they go together, to a beautiful island. But once there, Grandad decides he wants to stay …
There is no other visual storyteller quite like Benji Davies, and if you thought The Storm Whale and On Sudden Hill were close to picturebook perfection, then your breath will be taken away by the subtle beauty of Grandad’s Island. Davies touches on an emotive and difficult theme, the passing of a grandparent, and chooses to convey it as a final journey and adventure to a beautiful place. Some might see something spiritual in this, but more importantly the story conveys that that final place, whatever one chooses to label it, is a place of happiness, comfort and joy (little readers might notice some of the objects and inhabitants of the island can also be spotted in Grandad’s attic). The vividness of the colours help communicate to young readers that this is a safe, happy place for Grandad to be, a place he wants to be.
This is contrasted with the darker, stormier, longer journey Syd faces on his way back, with more muted and darker colours used. This is an incredibly powerful metaphor for Syd’s feelings of loss and bereavement. But Syd comes home safely, and though Grandad’s house is now empty, he is still with Syd, somehow. Again, subtly, almost like a whisper, Davies comforts young readers by showing that it is ok to feel better, eventually.
Only strong imagery can begin to help young children make sense of the strong conflicts of emotions they face at times of great sorrow and this is mastered flawlessly by Benji Davies in this book. The accuracy of the emotions and feelings expressed in Grandad’s Island will choke adult readers up. Yet as with all Davies’ books, despite the sadness, one closes the book feeling happy, comforted and hopeful. Grandad’s Island is a truly accomplished picturebook, a little piece of illustrated heaven.
Today is the final stop of the blog tour for Grandad’s Island (please check out The Book Sniffer, Picturebook Makers, Magpie That and Picture Books Bogger if you have missed the other stops) and I am delighted to welcome Benji to Library Mice, who is here to share his favourite reads featuring characters in their autumn years:
Growing old: my favourite book characters in their autumn years…
by Benji Davies
The Underground Man
An eccentric old duke potters about his grand estate making subterranean improvements whilst heading into the dark and often comical recesses of his own mind. Its a brilliant fictional but truthful portrait of an old man contemplating his own mortality.
Briggs unfolds the history of his parents’ everyday co-existence in this biographical account of their entire lives together. You’d be fooled into thinking this could be a mundane journey; what you take away is a warm and wonderful slice-of-life story told through Briggs’ trademark soft mark-making and a great social history lesson to boot.
Goodnight Mister Tom
A children’s book I only read recently this is the beautiful tale of an old man and a boy finding each other amidst their own troubles when they are thrown together during WWII. Often harrowing and vivid, this charming book repeatedly pulls you along its pastoral path and then hits you in the gut when you least expect it.
Although this is a novel, I cannot deny the influence it has had on my picture book writing, and I try and read it every year. The relationship between Sophia and her Grandma spending all summer on an island together is beautifully observed.
Thank you Benji, I am so pleased to see Ethel & Ernest in your selection, as it is one of my favourite books
Buy Grandad’s Island.
[…] Within the whirlwind of media buzz, Grandad’s Island has been picked three times in three issues of The Bookseller, including Picture Book Editor’s Choice, Children’s Preview 17.4.15 and strikingly featured in The Guardian and Sunday Times. The blog tour started on 6th July with a shining review & behind the scenes photos by The Book Sniffer and continued to cause an online stir with exclusive insight into the enchanting story as the week went on (Picturebook Makers, Magpie That, Picture Books Blogger, Library Mice). […]