Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Do You Choose?

Our lives are filled with choices.  If you stop to think about it, when during your day is a choice not being made?  Some decisions are instinctive or involuntary, others arise from external encouragement and many are motivated by something within us.

Growing up, discovering who you are and how to live your life, is no easy task.  Whatever circumstances have placed you where you are, as a child, are usually beyond your control.  Having parents, grandparents or persons on your family tree, famous or infamous, presents promises or problems or both.

One word immediately comes to mind when you think of Mahatma (Mohandas K.) Gandhi, peace.  For his fifth grandson, peace did not come easily to his restless soul.  Grandfather Gandhi (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 11, 2014) written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Evan Turk with informed elegance gifts an important lesson to readers.

We arrived at Sevagram, Grandfather's service village, dusty and dirty.  

Young Arun feels a deep sense of accomplishment when his Grandfather praises his efforts during their first meeting at Sevagram.  This is quickly replaced with frustration at having to share time spent with his Grandfather with three hundred fifty other persons.  Lying in bed that evening the young man worried about being a Gandhi; measuring up to expectations.

Mornings began in prayer followed by chores and lessons and then games of soccer filled Arun's days for the first week.  He excelled at soccer; lessons not so much.  And he waited and waited for time spent alone with his Grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi.

During the second week his Grandfather came to him, asking him to go for a walk.  Questions are asked; irritations are aired.  When an aide comes to take Grandfather away, even after his wise reply to Arun, the boy feels his disquiet growing.  Each small pebble of annoyance in his day is adding to create a rocky roadblock.

A single act on the soccer field that afternoon incites an emotional explosion.  Arun desperately seeks his Grandfather.  Grandfather Gandhi, leader of many, with compassion and love for his grandson takes an element of nature fashioning it into a guide for living.

Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus begin this book with a letter dated December 17, 1945 from Grandfather Gandhi to his grandson; allowing readers to gain an understanding of the love between the two.  They close with an explanation of their collaborative process.  In between these two important pages we readers gain a glimpse of the greatness of Gandhi's teachings.

With simple but descriptive sentences we gain a real sense of place and time.  Twelve-year-old Arun reveals details of his days that make us feel as if we are a part of his story.  His recollection of the defining day, when Grandfather Gandhi tells the story about anger, is so vivid you feel as if Gandhi is speaking to you now.  Here is a single passage.

Mother ushered Ela and me to bed.  The air was so thick and hot, we slept under the stars to keep cool.  I tossed and turned, wondering what the next day would bring.
Finally I fell asleep, after even the earth seemed to quiet.

Rendered in watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton, yarn, gouache, pencil, tea and tin foil the illustrations by Evan Turk are breathtaking, brimming with emotion.  As is my practice I opened the dust jacket and removed it to expose the book case.  Their matching pictures draw the reader into the world of Arun and Mahatma Gandhi; first by asking us to walk with them and on the back a circle, cut in quarters, visualizes the daily tasks at Sevagram.  Navy spinning wheels in various sizes cover the pale golden green opening and closing endpapers.

The initial two pages highlighting the letter has a portion of a spinning wheel on the left, thread extending to the right, cotton held in a hand, with the letter resting above.  Each picture is richly depicted in warm shades of brown, golden yellow, orange, coral, red, pink, and purple with splashes of blue and green against the bright white of clothing.  For most of the pages when Grandfather Gandhi is telling his story to Arun the elements of these visuals are shown in silhouette.  With only a few exceptions the illustrations fill two pages.

One of my favorite visuals shows Arun and Grandfather Gandhi walking along a road toward the morning sun.  A patchwork of patterns delineates the activities along the roadside as people go about their daily tasks.  Like the words of Gandhi peace permeates the pages.

I can think of no book more beautiful or important than Grandfather Gandhi written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus with illustrations by Evan Turk to introduce readers to this most memorable man.  His message is lovingly portrayed in a marvelous blend of text and pictures. I can already hear the discussions with children after a reading of this title.

Please follow the links embedded in the authors' and illustrator's names to access their websites.  There is a separate website for the book offering numerous resources. Enjoy the videos below.

It is a pleasure to participate in the 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy each week.  With every book my knowledge of the world grows a little bit more.


  1. I read this book this week too... finally! After hearing so many wonderful things I was hesitant, but it really was a beautiful book. I can't wait to use it next year. I think the conversations will be so rich and so important!

    1. I am glad we both read this book this week, Michele. I truly believe as you do; the discussions will be very important. Perhaps as they were for Arun, they will be life-changing.

  2. Beautifully done review of a very beautiful book. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thank you Alyson. I am so grateful for this challenge. Nonfiction picture books are truly amazing.

  3. This has been making the rounds lately, and with good reason too, I believe, as can be noted from your detailed review. Thank you for sharing with us your insights about the book. :)

    1. You are welcome, Myra. I hope you have been able to read it too.