The Runaways by Ulf Stark

The Runaways

Ulf Stark, Author

Kitty Crowther, Illustrator

Gecko Press, Fiction, Apr. 2, 2019

Pages: 144

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: Grandfather, Illness, Hospital, Lying, Runaways, Multigenerational families, Loss

Synopsis:

Grandpa is in the hospital and hating it. He swears at the nurses and makes trouble for everyone. Dad finds it too stressful to visit. But Gottfried Junior loves his Grandpa and visits him as often as he’s allowed, and when he’s not allowed, he goes anyway. He even sneaks him forbidden foods and beverages.

Grandpa thinks only of the place he was happiest — the island where he lived with Grandma. He wants to go back one last time, but they won’t let him out of the hospital.

Gottfried Junior and Grandpa take things into their own hands. If running away is the only way to the island, then they’ll be runaways.

Why I like this book:

I have to admit the title and cover of this book caught my eye. As I leafed through the pages, I knew that it would be a book that would resonate with children who have ailing grandparents and perhaps children who are ill. It’s packed with adventure, some clever planning, a good dose of humor, and sweet memories.

Every grandparent deserves a compassionate and loyal grandchild like Gottfried Junior, who outsmarts his parent to find ways to make secret trips to visit his grandpa at the hospital. Gottfried listens to his grumpy grandpa, his angry rants about the horrible food and being confined to a bed after he broke his leg twice. But Gottfried also remembers all the fun adventures he had with his grandpa. Together they hatch a plan to spring Grandpa from the hospital for two days, without Gottfried’s parents knowing.

The execution of the plan rests entirely on Gottfried, who arranges all of the details which include faking an overnight footbal trip; arranging the food; hiring a baker friend to help him wheel Grandpa out of the hospital and driving them to the dock to take a boat to the island. Everything goes off without a hitch, but Gottfried has to wrestle with “is it ever a good thing to lie sometimes?”

It is important for children to see how Gottfried’s grandpa handles the end of his life. He has one wish, to return to the home he built for his wife and spend time there remembering all the good in his life. In making the trip with Grandpa, Gottfried learns that death is not something to fear, that it’s important to remember joyful memories, and find closure with family members. I won’t spoil the beautiful ending.

The Runaways is written by Swedish author, Ulf Stark, and has been translated into English. It has a European feel to it, especially with the beautiful colored-pencil illustrations by Kitty Crowther that grace the chapters and give readers an additional experience.

Quote:

“I’d helped him get to the old house he’d built one last time. He’d been able to breathe in the smell of the sea. And I’d been down to the cellar and collected the last jar of lingonberry jam that he said somehow still had Grandma in it.” Page 72

Ulf Stark was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1944. He has written around thirty books for children and young adults, translated into more than twenty languages. He has won many prizes in Sweden and internationally, including the German Youth Literature Prize and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Finding Granny by Kate Simpson

Finding Granny

Kate Simpson, Author

Gwynneth Jones, Illustrator

EK Books, Fiction, Jul. 3, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Aging grandparents, Coping with an illness, Intergenerational relationships, Family

Opening: “Edie’s Granny is a playtime Granny, a bedtime, story-time pantomime Granny, an I’m not afraid of some slime Granny.”

Synopsis:

Edie’s Granny loves her with the fierceness of a lion Granny. They enjoy being together whether it’s eating ice cream cones, or snuggling up on the couch together proudly displaying their animal slippers. Then one day an ambulance arrives and takes Granny to the hospital.

When Edie arrives at the hospital, she is confronted by the physical changes in her grandmother. The lady in the bed, doesn’t look like Granny. She muddles words. Her smile is crooked and she’s confined to a bed.  Her mother has to feed her. This isn’t the Granny Edie knows. The doctor tells Edie and her mother that Granny had a stroke. Edie visits every day with her mother, but stays outside of her room.

When Edie’s mother takes her to watch one of Granny’s art therapy sessions, she begins to see the Granny she loves is still there, with her sense of humor intact.

Why I like this book:

This is a heartwarming story about the loving bond between Edie and her Granny, and the changes that occur in their relationship when her grandmother has a stroke.

It focuses on a common illness, like a stroke. It also sensitively explores ways for children to cope with a family illness and the rehabilitation process that follows. The book is age-appropriate and will bring children comfort.

The colorful illustrations expressively show Edie’s emotions, which range from indignation, worry,  anger, sadness, and surprise. Kids will watch how Edie finds her way to reconnect with Granny again.

Resources: The book alone is a resource for family members. According to the American Heart and the American Stroke Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.  There is valuable information for family members, a video of a little girl saving her father’s life by calling 911, and moving forward as a family.

Kate Simpson spent her childhood with her nose in a book but always thought writing was something that other people did. In her thirties, Kate finally decided to give it a try and discovered that ideas can come from anywhere and writing can be for anyone. When she’s not writing or reading, Kate loves board games and laughter, the feel of the sun on her face, and spending time with family, particularly her two young children. This is her first picture book.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.