This bibliography is drawn from books published between 1995 and 2020. While some award-winners and bestsellers are included, part of the goal is to feature underappreciated gems. For more recent titles, visit Cynsations.
ARTURO AND THE NAVIDAD BIRDS by Anne Broyles, illustrated by K.E. Lewis, translated by Gust Soanish (Pelican, 2013). It’s time for Arturo and his Central American grandmother, Abue Rosa, to decorate their Christmas tree. Abue Rosa shares with him the family history of each ornament as it is hung. But what happens when Arturo plays with—and breaks—a glass bird? Young readers will find out in this touching, bilingual picture book. Ages 4-up. More on this title from Cynsations. Compiled from promotional materials.
BONJOUR, LONNIE by Faith Ringgold (Hyperion, 1996). In this time travel story, Love Bird takes Lonnie back in time to Paris to meet his black grandfather and white grandmother, who are then met by Lonnie’s parents. His father was killed in World War II, and his Jewish mom sent him away for safekeeping while she was taken by the Nazis. Love Bird then returns Lonnie to his new home. This is a sophisticated picture book that touches on a variety of important moments and trends in history. Though themes of connection and reunion will be understood by young readers, it is perhaps best appreciated by older ones. Excellent introduction to the Harlem Renaissance and the migration of African-Americans to Paris. Ages 5-up.
DAUGHTER OF SUQUA by Diane Johnston Hamm (Albert Whitman, 1997). Ida, a young Suqhamish girl, and her people are faced with allotment, boarding schools, and more harsh changes. But through it all, the relationships between this young girl and the people of her community, especially her grandmother, are truly inspiring. Ages 8-up.
DEAR JUNO by Soyung Pak, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung (Viking, 1999). Juno can’t wait to read the letter from his Korean grandmother, but he doesn’t know how to translate the Korean words. From little clues tucked inside the letter, Juno knows some of Grandmother’s news anyway. When it’s time to write her back, he must figure out how to communicate — even though she doesn’t read English. Ages 4-up.
FOX SONG by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Paul Morin (Philomel, 1993). A gentle story about the relationship of Jamie and her Granma Bowman and about Jamie’s acceptance of Granma’s death. A sweet story. Probably my favorite by Bruchac, who is no doubt the most published Native author of children’s books. Ages 4-up. Learn more about .
GRAMPA’S CORNER STORE by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan (HarperCollins, 2000). When a competing superstore moves in, Lucy’s determination and community teamwork may be the best chance of survival for Grampa’s corner store. Ages 4-up.
GRANDFATHER COUNTS by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Ange Zhang (Lee & Low, 2000). When Gong Gong (grandfather) first comes to live with Helen, she feels distanced by his inability to speak English and her inability to speak Chinese. Then, watching a train together, they begin to teach each other how to count the cars, Helen in English and Gong Gong in Chinese. In time, the two begin to bond as grandparent to child. A realistic, warm book that is not overly sentimental. Helen’s family is Asian and European-American, but no issue is made of this. Ages 4-up.
GRANDMA’S CAT by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Marsha Winborn (Houghton Mifflin, 1996). A story for pre-schoolers about how a deserving girl befriends a cat. Ages 4-up.
GRANDMOTHER’S PIGEON by Louise Erdrich, illustrated by Jim La Marche (Hyperion, 1996). Grandmother has caught a ride to Greenland on the back of a porpoise, and what’s more, a nest of birds has hatched in her bedroom. Where did they come from? Ages 4-up.
INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith (HarperCollins, 2002)(Heartdrum, 2020, 2021). Ray and Grampa Halfmoon face the challenges of daily life with love and humor in this collection of short stories set in Chicago and rural Oklahoma. Together, they encounter homesickness, bad hair cuts, mystery, artistic competition, and a wedding without proper pants for the ring bearer. Ages 7-up.
IN MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE AWARD WINNING AUTHORS TELL STORIES ABOUT THEIR GRANDMOTHERS edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (HarperCollins, 2003). An anthology collection of short stories by authors about their grandmothers. Contributing authors: Joan Abelove; Alma Flor Ada, Bonnie Christensen; Beverly Cleary; Pat Cummings; Jean Craighead George; Minfong Ho; Ji-li Jang; Gail Carson Levine; Beverly Naidoo; Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Diane Stanley. Ages 8-up.
JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000)(Heartdrum, 2021). Jenna, a Muscogee (Creek) girl, is enthusiastic about wanting to jingle dance at the upcoming powwow. With time running short, she seeks the assistance of women of her contemporary intertribal community in bringing together the remainder of her regalia. A story of reciprocity and respect. Ages 4-up.
LESS THAN HALF, MORE THAN WHOLE by Kathleen Lacapa and Michael Lacapa, who also is the illustrator (Northland, 1994). When Will calls Tony “only half, or less than half Indian,” Tony tries to figure out what that means. With TaTda’s (Grandfather’s) help, Tony realizes that, like the Creator’s gift of multicolored corn, he is whole. Ages 5-up.
LILIANA’S GRANDMOTHERS by Leyla Torres (FSG, 1998). A look at Liliana’s loving relationship with her white American grandmother, Mima, who lives in Liliana’s home town and her grandmother Mama Gabina, who lives in a Spanish-speaking country. Ages 4-up.
THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH by Laurence Yep (HarperCollins, 2000). This historical novel centers on young Steve, Grandfather, and a friend of the family, Uncle Fong. After the tragic death of his parents, Steve comes to live in Chinatown with his poor Grandfather, who seems emotionally distant. When Grandfather gives Steve a magic paintbrush, suddenly they can paint their desires into reality. Characterization is particularly wonderful. Ages 9-up.
MANGO, ABUELA AND ME by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Candlewick, 2015). When a little girl’s far-away grandmother comes to stay, love and patience transcend language in a tender story written by acclaimed author Meg Medina. Mia’s abuela has left her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the city. The night she arrives, Mia tries to share her favorite book with Abuela before they go to sleep and discovers that Abuela can’t read the words inside. So while they cook, Mia helps Abuela learn English (“Dough. Masa“), and Mia learns some Spanish too, but it’s still hard for Abuela to learn the words she needs to tell Mia all her stories. Then Mia sees a parrot in the pet-shop window and has the perfecto idea for how to help them all communicate a little better. An endearing tale from an award-winning duo that speaks loud and clear about learning new things and the love that bonds family members. Ages 5-up. Compiled from promotional materials.
MEI-MEI LOVES THE MORNING by by Margaret Holloway Tsubakiyama, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (Albert Whitman, 1999). Illustrated in beautiful watercolors, this book is a slice-of-life celebration of the loving relationship between Mei-Mei and her grandfather. Ages 4-up.
MONSOON by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Jamel Akib (FSG, 2003). Deeply sensory, this book takes readers to Northern India. The details are storytelling, somehow familiar, bringing each moment alive, the ache and eagerness for the rains. Feel the dust, taste the mangoes, play hopscotch, dance in the rain. Akib’s soft, expressive art is a perfect compliment to Krishnaswami’s evocative text. Ages 4-up.
MORE MORE MORE SAID THE BABY: 3 LOVE STORIES by Vera B. Williams (Greenwillow, 1990). A darling child of African heritage is adored as his white Grandma’s “Little Pumpkin.” Also features single-race families. Inclusive in tone and content. A Caldecott Honor Book. Ages 2-up.
MUSKRAT WILL BE SWIMMING by Cheryl Savageau, illustrated by Robert Hynes, featuring a Seneca traditional story retold by Joseph Bruchac (Northland, 1996). When a young Native girl is called “Lake Rat,” she is comforted by Grampa who both reveals how he was once called “Frog” because of his French-Indian heritage and shows how those intended insults are signs that the bullies don’t appreciate the joy of the frog and wonder of the lake. Ages 4-up.
PEACEBOUND TRAINS by Haemi Balgassi, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Clarion, 1996). Sumi misses her mother, who is in the Army, but she still has Harmuny (grandmother). They sit on Sumi’s favorite rock and ‘ at the sound of a train whistle ‘ Harmuny recalls when she and Sumi’s mother escaped war in Seoul, Korea on the roof of a peacebound train. A touching treatment of the effects of war on a family. Illustrated with great beauty and sensitivity. Ages 7-up.
THE STORY OF THE MILKY WAY, A CHEROKEE TALE by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross, illustrated by Virginia A. Stroud (Cherokee-Creek) (Dial, 1995). A spirit dog has been stealing the corn meal, and he can be driven away only with the combined efforts of a young boy, Beloved Woman, and the entire village. Ages 4-up.
A STORY TO TELL: TRADITIONS OF A TLINGIT COMMUNITY (WE ARE STILL HERE: NATIVE AMERICANS TODAY) by Richard Nichols, illustrated with photographs by D. Bambi Kraus (Lerner, 1998). A grandmother in the village of Kate on Kupreanof Island, one of the traditional areas of the Tlingit people, tells stories of their culture to her granddaughter, Marissa, 11, from Seattle. Ages 5-up.
TOFU AND T. REX by Greg Leitich Smith (Little, Brown, 2005). Militant vegan Frederika Murchison-Kowalski is back at the Peshtigo School. The bad news is that now Freddie has to live with her cousin, Hans-Peter, a diehard carnivore, and grandfather, who happens to own a butcher shop and sausage deli. Freddie and Hans-Peter are soon at odds with each other over bathroom sharing, dinner menus, and more. To complicate matters, Hans-Peter needs Freddie’s insider knowledge to get accepted into the Peshtigo School himself. Ages 10-up. Don’t miss the companion book, NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO.
TWO MRS. GIBSONS by Toyomi Igus, pictures by Daryl Wells (Children’s Book Press, 1995). Delightful celebration of a child’s love for the two Mrs. Gibson’s in her life, her Japanese American mother and her African-American grandmother. Ages 3-up.
TWO PAIRS OF SHOES by Esther Sanderson, illustrated by David Beyer (Pemmican, 1998). For Maggie’s eighth birthday, she receives a pair of black patent shoes from her mother and a pair of moccasins from her Kokum (grandmother), who reminds her there are times and ways to wear each. Ages 3-up.
A WALK TO THE GREAT MYSTERY by Virginia A. Stroud (Dial, 1995). Dustin and Rosie take a walk with their Grandma Ann, a Cherokee medicine woman, and gain insight into the Great Mystery. Ages 5-up.
WELL WISHED by Franny Billingsley (Atheneum, 1997). Nuria knows that wishes can go wrong, but she decides to go ahead and match wits with the well. A first novel from a rising star in children’s fantasy; not to be missed. Ages 8-up.
THE WINDOW by Michael Dorris (Hyperion, 1997). In this story, the late Michael Dorris returned his attention to Rayona Taylor, the hero of two of his books for adults, A YELLOW RAFT IN BLUE RIVER (1987) and CLOUD CHAMBER (1997). THE WINDOW is set earlier than the other two and features Rayona at age 11, whose Native mother is preoccupied with her own problems, including drinking, and whose African American father eventually ships her to live with his mother, sister, and grandmother. Ray has never met these relatives before and is surprised to discover that they are white. This is a quiet story, one in which the action is in the heart. Dorris’s writing is perceptive and evocative. Ages 8-up.
YUNMI AND HALMONI’S TRIP by Sook Nyul Choi, illustrated by Karen Dugan (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). Yunmi accompanies her grandmother to Korea, where her grandmother was born. Korea is exciting, and it’s wonderful for Yunmi to meet her relatives. But it isn’t home to her. What if Halmoni (grandmother) decides to stay? Ages 4-up.
Can We Talk About Ageism in Picture Books? by Lindsey McDivitt from A is for Aging, B is for Books.