As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
This book’s heart was in the right place, but I don’t particularly enjoy picture books unless the illustrations are simple (usually board books). The ad-libbing I had to do at the beginning was too much work for a bedtime story.
However, I liked the idea of this book–of an Americanized grandson and his traditional grandfather communicating through art, though I wondered why the grandson never tries to learn his grandfather’s first (and seemingly only) language (which I’m assuming is Vietnamese as that is the author’s ethnicity), just as I wondered why the grandfather hasn’t tried to learn any English. Wouldn’t it make sense to at least try to learn some rudimentary language that is prevalent in your country of residence? I would’ve much preferred to see grandfather and -son at least struggle to understand one another via the spoken word rather than just accept that they will never be able to communicate in any other way except through art; even then, they can’t have a conversation about what they’ve created–proof that a picture does not equal 1000 words.
The art is well-done (the picture of the grandfather and son hugging strummed my heartstrings), even if it isn’t my style (I’m not into dragons and superheroes). I appreciate Mr. Santat’s art the way I appreciate Shakespeare, opera, and Andy Warhol; such takes an incredible amount of talent and skill to draw with such precision and infusion of color–it just wasn’t for me.
With books like these, I wonder why the author should get top billing over the illustrator–the illustrator carried this story. There’s only 102 words in the book.
Suggested activity: Art was my favorite class in elementary school; I try to pass that love down to my daughter by showing her that art is fun–by doing it with her. For a child who prefers music to art (like mine), you have to think outside the crayon box. A blog I have found extremely useful for affordable art ideas is The Artful Parent: https://artfulparent.com/.