A sensitive and beautifully illustrated picture book for 2-5 year olds that focuses on the special relationship between grandparent and child and touches lightly on the subject of loss.
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK (July 2, 2015)
RRP: $14.99 (AUD)
Syd’s Grandad lives in a house at the bottom of Syd’s garden.
One day, Grandad shows Syd a secret door in his attic which leads to a magnificent cruise ship that takes them to a beautiful deserted island.
Together, the pair discover’s the Island’s natural wonders and make themselves at home by building a shelter and befriending the local wildlife.
Eventually, Syd decides it’s time to return home. But Grandad decides to stay, much to Syd’s surprise.
Back in Grandad’s attic, Syd discovers the secret door in Grandad’s attic no longer exists. One day, there’s a tap at the attic window. Sitting on the ledge is an envelope containing a picture of his smiling Grandad, happy on the Island.
I have to admit to feeling a healthy dose of scepticism when I read the media release, describing Grandad’s Island as a book that deals with the loss of a grandparent.
As a mother of three, I know from first-hand experience that death can be an extremely difficult topic to confront with young children; either they display a confronting lack of awareness over its seriousness, or they take it extremely seriously and experience utter devastation.
Either way, the question remains – is it appropriate fodder for a picture book?
In the case of Grandad’s Island – the approach is subtle. Almost oblique. In this story, the focus is very much on the strength of the bond between Grandad and Syd, and Syd’s sadness when his Grandad decides to stay on the island. Ultimately, the story ends with Syd being reassured that Grandad is happy and safe.
What Grandad’s Island successfully achieves is validation of the range of emotions that children may feel on losing a grandparent, including fear and sadness. Fortunately, the message does not come at the expense of a really lovely story.
My children are fortunate to have lost no grandparents – and they have asked to read this book every night since it arrived on the bookshelf. It’s hard to be sceptical in the face of that.
Benji Davies is an illustrator and animation director.
His first self-penned picture book The Storm Whale won the inaugral Oscar’s First Book Prize in 2014 and was shortlisted for Booktrust’s Best Book Awards.
Benji studied animation at university, and has since worked on a diverse array of projects, from picture books and animated short films to music videos, commercials and title sequences. His books have been co-editioned in many languages and countries around the world.