June 20, 2023

Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship

Written by Heather Smith
Illustrated by Ashley Barron
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
June 2023
This is a story of what is left after a grandparent passes. Many think of the tangible bequests. This child's inheritance is so much more.
From Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship, written by Heather Smith, illus. by Ashley Barron
When Granny dies, there was a hole in our family.
Remembering her helped us fill it.
After a boy's grandmother dies, his family deals with their grief in different ways. There's the sharing of stories and photos, and there's reminiscing about the items she bequeathed them. But what did she leave him? It wasn't one thing. She's left him an abundance of memories of adventures that they'd created together. 
From Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship, written by Heather Smith, illus. by Ashley Barron
Whether it's the memory of creating a tent with blankets or a flying broomstick, a knight's sword on which marshmallows were roasted, or a rocket ship, often using Granny's blue cane, this child has a lifetime of memories of fantastic exploits.

Grief and loss are handled differently for everyone and will definitely vary between adults and children. The adults in this household must get on with the task of sorting out Granny's home and cherishing unique gifts bestowed on them, as do the two older children. But what the narrator gets is far greater and this child knows it. Heather Smith, author of everything from picture books like Annie's Cat is Sad to middle-grade novels in verse (e.g., Ebb & Flow) and YA like The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, always gets into the heart of feelings. She finds a way to see something positive and uplifting even in the challenging times. Here, a child is dealing with the loss of a beloved grandparents, and he finds a way to be grateful for the experiences he had with his grandmother. We've all heard of or experienced how a family loss can become a struggle of disputes with who got what, but this child sees beyond the material things his parents and siblings got and knows that he got so much more. He didn't get the tuba or the record collection or the microscope but he got everything he wanted in adventures and time and imaginative play with an elder he loved. In few words, Heather Smith lets us feel the adoration and gratitude.
From Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship, written by Heather Smith, illus. by Ashley Barron
From Ashley Barron's cut-paper collage with watercolour, and acrylic and pencil crayon, readers will never experience the grief that is the reason that the child was left something at all. There is no somberness to Ashley Barron's illustrations and that's because, while this boy and his family have experienced a loss, they are grateful for the gifts and time and  relationships they've had with their mother and grandmother. For the narrator, the gift of time and connection takes him from Granny's very real living room into his imagination with palm trees and teal waters to dragons and owls.
When Granny died,
she left me a world of adventure...
that I can take with me wherever I go.
What a gift.

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