Dear Grandpa by Kate Simpson and Ronojoy Ghosh

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760523435.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Grandparents, Separation, Letter writing, Communication. Henry sees the 2003 kilometres between him and his beloved Grandpa in terms of blue whales placed end to end, and goodnight kisses as impossible as shooting stars. The letters written between the two reveal the love that exists and the things that they once did together. Henry's letters are crowded with information, beginning with 'Did you know' and telling Grandpa of the things that he has noticed without him, while Grandpa turns Henry's letters into possible ways of getting to his new apartment in the city.
Laugh out loud letters go between the two, encouraging the readers to sympathise with the older man and his grandson, separated by thousands of kilometres. Readers will love picking up clues about where each of the protagonists reside, Grandpa on a farm with lots of out buildings and animals portrayed and mango trees, while Henry is in a city with city lights, access to the zoo, shipping and whales. Readers will compare the two sites, asking themselves which is the better place to live, thinking about the advantages of each residence.
Letter writing is brought to the fore in this delightful book and I can imagine kids and classes trying out this form of communication for themselves, working out the advantages and disadvantages of letter writing compared with the electronic forms of communication which are so well known. Pondering just why the two write letters to each other will increase their understanding of the vast distances involved in maintaining relationships in Australia, and may lead on to talking about the communication tools we take for granted and how to keep themselves safe in using them.
Ronojoy Ghosh brings his humorous illustrative technique to the pages, encouraging the reader to look closely at each image. And as I read this charming book, a story about a letter in a bottle is all over the news, a bottle dropped into the sea fifty years ago, turning up on a South Australian beach.
What a wonderful side issue for students reading this book.
Fran Knight