cover image Grandpa Green

Grandpa Green

Lane Smith. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-607-7

In this reflective tale, Smith (It's a Book) departs from his customary irony to muse on the memories, talents, and traditions passed down through generations. Smith's young narrator, in overalls and rubber boots, describes his great-grandfather. The boy waters plants and tidies up in a magnificent topiary garden, lined in delicate ink and decorated with ornamental hedges in the shapes of people, animals, and iconic objects. "He was born a really long time ago, before computers or cell phones or television," says the boy, and the first topiary depicts a crying baby. Other creations include rabbit- and chicken-shaped shrubs to suggest a childhood farm; a head-shaped bush dotted with red berries ("In fourth grade he got chicken pox"); and an erupting cannon to signify wartime. Smith works in an impressionistic range of emerald, moss, and seaweed hues, memorializing Grandpa Green's life events in meticulously pruned shrubs. The child eventually catches up with an elderly man who "sometimes forgets things. But the important stuff, the garden remembers for him." It's a rare glimpse into Smith's softer side%E2%80%94as skillful as his more sly offerings, but crafted with honesty and heart. Ages 5%E2%80%939. (Sept.)