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Lola and Grandpa, Ashling Kwok (author), Yvonne Low (illus.), Little Pink Dog Books, May 2020.
Every Sunday Lola visits her Grandpa. They spend the day exploring the universe and teaching each other about the world. But then one day everything changes. Grandpa isn’t there anymore. Lola struggles to deal with the loss. But as time goes by Lola realises that her Grandpa will always be with her – in her heart and in the memories they made.
A beautiful and reassuring story of love, loss, and the value of memories.
Loss of a loved family member is tough on anyone, let alone young children who find the concept so difficult to grapple with. The topic of death, or another aspect of trauma, in picture books is also one that really needs the finest sensitivity, and an element of warmth around it, to make it manageable in the eyes of young readers. Such stories as The Tiny Star (Mem Fox and Freya Blackwood), or Harry and Hopper (Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood) are such that radiate with love and light, despite the gloom. Lola and Grandpa is another that equally compares in this category. It blooms with joy and hope on either side of a rain-pelt mood, supported with its lyrically tender wording and heart-warming illustrations.
Author Ashling Kwok has so beautifully captured a special relationship between Lola and her Grandpa. And in light of the story’s theme of making, and remembering, memories, she has also gifted her readers (both young and old) with the power of reminiscing on treasured moments they have experienced, too. I love the simplicity in the activities Lola and Grandpa explore together, the cherishing of nature, and the value of the world’s beauty that synonymously reflects the cycle of life. Not without emotion and evocation would this story feel so well-rounded, with its spring brought back into its step as daisies blossom and birds trill to brighten Lola’s cold, winter blues after her Grandpa’s passing.
The illustrations by Yvonne Low divinely shine with the warmth between characters. She has depicted ‘love’ with a mixture of full page and gorgeous vignettes of moments shared, and soft, pastel watercolours in shades of greens, yellows and blues that beautifully parallel the natural world they explore together. Low also provides readers with visual cues to ponder, such as the comfort Lola receives from her dog, Patch, or the significance of a falling leaf from a lonely, bare tree.
No doubt this book’s sentiment will linger long in our hearts, but even more so, the author’s distinctive phrase, ‘Time slips away, but love and memories last forever’; touching our souls as well. Lola and Grandpa’s beauty and reassurance emanates through its prose, context and pictorial representations, that wrap around your heart like a warm, cosy cardigan on a frosty day. Highly recommended for the generations to love, share and treasure forever.
Review by Romi Sharp.
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