April 26, 2017

Grandfather and the Moon

Written by Stéphanie Lapointe
Illustrated by Rogé
Translated by ShelleyTanaka
Groundwood Books
100 pp.
Ages 10-13
May 2017

Grand-père et la Lune won the 2016 Governor General's Award for French-language children's illustration and Groundwood Books has astutely engaged Shelley Tanaka to bring this jewel as Grandfather and the Moon to English-language readers. It's sensitive and nostalgic and emotive in a finely understated approach, blending a grandfather-granddaughter relationship with an exceptional journey into space.

Though it is evident from the subtle words and illustrations at the onset that the young girl's grandfather has passed, this is her story of how she remembers him.  He affectionately called her Mémère and, though he spoke few words, he said much to her.  He told his granddaughter of his past work, and always insisted she go to university and get her degree.  He drove around in a tank of a Chrysler and loved spaghetti that came out of a can.
From Grandfather and the Moon 
by Stéphanie Lapointe
illus. by Rogé

Life passed through Grandfather
like one long breath.
and slow.

He adored his wife Lucille and was devastated by her death, slipping into a depression of fewer words, "Like his heart ran out of gas." When the Who Will Go to the Moon Contest is announced (though Grandfather hadn't heard of it, since he rarely watched TV, declaring that "Television is something that ends up doing our thinking for us"), the young girl is selected from hundreds of thousands of people for the space journey.

From Grandfather and the Moon 
by Stéphanie Lapointe
illus. by Rogé
After a booming launch, the girl ponders the beauty and silence of space, infusing her deliberations with her perspective on the history of space travel.  Just like the overwhelming emptiness her grandfather endured upon the death of his wife, the girl is staggered by the desolation.  Her response is stunning, to herself and others, but her grandfather in his box of a car is still there for her.

From Grandfather and the Moon
by Stéphanie Lapointe
illus. by Rogé
The relationship between granddaughter and grandfather is everything in Grandfather and the Moon.  There may be an extraordinary trip into space by an ordinary girl but even that does not surpass the profound connection between the two as the most important feature of the book.  Hardly effusive, the two still nurture their relationship as you would a fragile glass sphere, taking care with it but not engulfing it.  And even though I never knew either of my grandfathers, I know this young girl and this man who says so much in his actions and impacts her choices.  This must be a relationship very familiar to author Stéphanie Lapointe as her perspective is so intimate and touched with affection.

Award-winning artist Rogé who has illustrated countless French- and English-language books, his own and those of other authors,  uses pencil to evoke both the delicacy and the transparency of the relationship between the two generations in Grandfather and the Moon.  Moreover, the contemplative nature of the story comes out in Rogé's illustrations, from scenes of Grandfather at Lucille's bedside or the young girl's sojourn into space.  The colours are ever muted, with only glints of red, green or blue like stars in an oppressively darkened sky.  Together Stéphanie Lapointe and Rogé ensure that Grandfather and the Moon is loaded in gravitas in both words and art but with twinkles of humour and sweetness.  Because that's what life is generally like.  


Alex Baugh said...

This sounds like a really wonderful book and I'll definitley have to seek it out.

Helen K said...

It's quite unique and definitely thought-provoking.

Darlene said...

The relationship between a child and a grandparent is very special and this book will be a special addition to many children's library. It reminds me of my dad and my daughter.

Helen K said...

How very fortunate for both of them, Darlene.

Anonymous said...

This book looks lovely. I just ordered a copy.

Thank you, Helen, for your wonderful reviews and for showcasing the new and extraordinary. Your reviews are a pleasure to read.