cover image Great Grandfather's House

Great Grandfather's House

Rumer Godden. Greenwillow Books, $18 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11319-3

Keiko, a cosmopolitan and somewhat spoiled Japanese girl, has made up her mind not to enjoy herself well before she arrives at her great-grandparents' house in the country, where she must spend the next three months while her parents go to England. Keiko scorns the old-fashioned rural ways and pokes fun at her younger cousin Yoji, who is small for his age; nonetheless, the city girl finds it hard to resist Grandfather's spellbinding stories, Yoji's imaginative games and the abundant wonders of nature, all of which replace Keiko's transistor and mechanical toy as prime sources of entertainment. Strict discipline and Old Mother's unending patience gradually teach the stubborn protagonist the value of courtesy, prudence and self-restraint. Cheerfully accented by Littlewood's alluring illustrations, the masterly Godden's prose expresses the beauty of Japanese traditions as preserved in modern society. As winsome as the characters are the evocative images: nutshell boats floating down a stream, delicate teacups set out for a party, a frozen bird in the snow. The taste of this atmospheric work will linger. Ages 6-up. (May)