cover image Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village

Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village

Fang Suzhen, trans. from the Chinese by Huang Xiumin, illus. by Sonja Danowski. NorthSouth (IPS, dist.), $19.95 (48p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4216-8

Taiwanese author Suzhen writes honestly, even starkly, about the death of a grandparent and the suffering that precedes it. Xiao Le (he’s very young, with baby cheeks and a beloved toy truck) hasn’t visited Grandma in some time, and he’s initially frightened to see her. Little by little, Xiao Le’s fear turns to sympathy: “My truck will sleep with you, Grandma,” he says. This is the last time he and his mother will see Grandma. Soon after, his mother tells him, “Grandma has left Perfume Village and moved into heaven.” Suzhen conveys with tenderness the way Xiao Le understands his mother’s grief and thinks of ways to comfort her: “Look, Mom, Grandma has turned on the light!” he says when the moon comes out. A wooden translation hobbles the story (“It had been a long time since he saw her”), but Danowski’s (The Forever Flowers) exquisitely executed artwork redeems it, especially her intimate portraits of mother and son. While the book’s audience is likely to be small, readers who discover it will find that Danowski’s work eases its difficult moments. Ages 4–8. [em](May) [/em]