Sunday, November 24, 2019

Review - A Stopwatch from Grampa

A Stopwatch from Grampa
by Loretta Garbutt
illustrated by Carmen Mok
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A child inherits a treasured stopwatch that belonged to a beloved grandparent in this touching story of loss that explores the stages of grief with sensitivity and wisdom.

"When summer started, I got Grampa's stopwatch," a small child says. "I don't want his stopwatch. I want him." Grampa used to time everything. A race to the end of the street and back: 24 seconds. Eating bubblegum ice cream: 1 minute, 58 seconds. But now, Grampa's gone. "There are no more Grampa minutes, Grampa seconds," the child says. "Time just stops." As the seasons come and go, the stopwatch becomes a cherished symbol of remembrance, and the child uses it to carry on Grampa's favorite pastimes and traditions.

Loretta Garbutt uses subtlety and sensitivity to explore the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in this moving picture book story of loss. It features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns are given) making the story universally relatable. This is a perfect choice for fostering discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss. It also offers a poignant representation of an intergenerational relationship between a grandfather and grandchild. Carmen Mok's expressive and thoughtful illustrations employ a limited color palette to convey the character's emotional trajectory. There are curriculum applications here in social-emotional development as well as character education lessons in caring and resilience.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a sweet story about memories and coming to terms with grief.

A child used to play with their grandfather, timing everything with his stopwatch. But now Grampa is gone, and all that's left is the stopwatch. The child doesn't want anything to do with it, and buries it in a drawer. They feel sad, and don't want to do the things that used to make them happy. One day, after some time has passed, they find the stopwatch and start to use it to time things. They remember the fun they had, and use the stopwatch as a way to honour their memory of Grampa.

The story is simple, but poignant. The illustrations, done in a limited colour palette, capture the moods of the main character perfectly. (The narrator is drawn as rather unisex--intentionally, I suspect--so they're easily relatable.)

Overall, this is a nice picture book about grief, in the same vein as My Big, Dumb Invisible Dragon by Angie Lucas or The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden by Heather Smith.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.83 out of 5

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