Grandpa's Angel

Jutta Bauer, Author Candlewick Press (MA) $12.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7636-2743-0
Bauer's (Selma) pen-and-ink-and-watercolor-wash illustrations and unadorned narrative combine for a story that alternately amuses, moves and may well inspire readers, even if it appeals more to an older audience than the picture-book crowd. In the opening scene, a boy crawls onto a hospital bed where his ailing Grandpa declares, ""You know, my boy, nothing could ever hurt me."" Grandpa then tells the boy about his childhood in Germany, showing him running through the town square, past an angel statue. Unbeknownst to the boy, an actual angel emerges from the statue to protect him from ferocious dogs, menacing thugs and drowning. Humorous scenarios (""Once I was almost run over by a bus,"" Grandpa recounts; the angel flies against the bus, whose passengers go sprawling, while the boy blithely passes by) leaven more serious situations. In one scene, the boy chats happily with a somber friend wearing a Star of David. ""I didn't know how dangerous times were back then. My friend Joseph knew.... One day, he disappeared."" Such sophisticated ideas rendered so simply may confuse youngsters, especially when Grandpa later appears in uniform, being scolded by his commanding Nazi officer. In the postwar years, the man works odd jobs, falls in love and eventually becomes a grandfather to his visitor. ""All in all, it's been a beautiful life.... I've been very lucky,"" Grandpa declares, and the ending offers a ray of hope. All ages.
Reviewed on: 07/11/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
Genre: Children's
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