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Posts Tagged ‘Tomie de Paola

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola

I’ll admit it – I’m a big crier! Sad (or happy) movies (with big sound tracks), novels with stories and endings that make you feel like you are losing your best friend (again), opt-ed pieces in newspapers, or children’s books like Love You Forever by Robert Munch. So I pretty much knew what was coming when one of my daughters picked out a book with the title Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs. I tried to dodge it with “We’re taking too many books out already!”, but somehow it stayed in our library check-out pile. Now I have to admit I’m glad it did.

Death is a really hard and scary concept for kids (OK, for almost everyone), but it shouldn’t be ignored. It is around us all the time – my daughter’s daycare friend’s father died suddenly; even more recently one of my good friends’ dearly-loved 99 year old grandmother died; and today I spent some time mourning the unexpected loss of Jack Layton, a man who gave such incredible energy, intelligence and realness to politics in Canada. As much as I would like to shield my daughters from the pain people feel from these losses, it is a reality. It is only through talking about death that children are able to begin to understand and develop the coping skills they will need to deal with what they will face throughout life.

This book presents 4 year old Tommy, a child who gets to connect with both his grandmother and great-grandmother every week. He does this with an innocence and love that is generous and lovely. His defense of his great-grandmother saying “she looks beautiful” is touching and wise. Based on my own relationship with my grandmother, I have always hoped to pass on to my daughters an appreciation of the beauty of old people. I never anticipated finding a book that also helps to convey that message. The death of his great-grandmother and her empty room is heartbreaking. His hope remains when he sees a shooting star in the sky, first for his great grandma and later after his grandmother died. I think this is a comforting and good message for this age range.

This book is based on the author’s personal experience. He is also the author of other books like Strega Nona. It is obvious that old people had a great influence on his life and I’m very grateful that he passed along the stories and wisdom that he gained from these connections.

Wendy’s Grandma at 97 years old
Wilma Nichols (May 23, 1911 – May 23, 2011)

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