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maia and what matters + grey is good
Maia and What Matters by Tine Mortier, illustrated by Kaatje Vermeire. Originally published in Belgium, translated by David Colmer.
You can tell by the cover how gorgeous this book is. It’s the story of Maia. When she was born. The cherry tree in the garden. That her first word was “cake.”
It’s the story of Maia and her grandmother, her best friend.
The two of them ran from the cherry tree to the fence. They ate cake and sweets. They told stories.
Quite abruptly, the illustrations go dark. Grandma falls down. Then she falls into a sleep. And when she wakes up, she’s different.
“In her sleep, Grandma had forgotten all kinds of things. How to eat cake and how to run and how to tell stories. ‘What’s going on? Why is everything so hard all of a sudden?’ Grandma was sitting up straight in a white bed on wheels with a kind of fence around it. Maia thought she was sitting much too still.”
It is heartbreaking when things change. But Maia copes quite well. In fact, when her grandma’s words are slow and strange and her mouth droops, Maia is the only one who understands. Maia is the one who still sees and hears her grandmother. And when more heartbreak comes, Maia and Grandma are together.
This is not a typical picture book, nor a typical book about loss. And I love what it gets at: the unique bond a child can have with a grandparent or other special senior. How sometimes there is only one person who sees beyond the changes illness brings. And how sometimes that person is a child who loves them.
Thanks to Book Island for the images! Based in New Zealand, Book Island specializes in children’s books translated to English.
I was provided a review copy of this book; opinions are my own.
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Grey Power is a lovely project to pair with this amazing grandparent book.
Yoni Lefevre asked four 10-11 year olds to draw a portrait of their grandparents the way they thought of them. The result? Juggling, gardening, multi-armed, tennis-playing older folks. Then Lefevre staged photo portraits based on the kids’ drawings. Hence, Grey Power. Because the oldest generations have so much still to share.
“For ‘Grey Power’ I used drawings made by children of their grandparents, to create an image boost for this generation. Children do not regard their grandparents as grey and withered, but as active human beings who add color to their lives. Their fresh perspective can contribute towards a more nuanced and positive view on the composition of our society.”
I love the results. The staged photos manage to capture the whimsy and strangeness of the drawings with real people. I mean, those bubbly, 3D shirts! And they show older folks doing awesome stuff. As they do.