In the children’s book, Grandpa Grumps, by Katrina Moore and illustrated by Xindi Yan, Daisy prepares for Yeh-Yeh’s (Grandpa’s) visit from China by making a list. Plans include having tea parties, drinking hot cocoa, reading a book, building a snowman and drawing. Upon his arrival, however, he is nothing but grumpy, even grumpier than her cat who has a constant, furrowed unibrow on almost every page.
The days of the week quickly go by and Daisy cannot get him to do anything, not even smile. Grandpa’s return to China grows imminent and his visit seems a waste until one day she peeks into Yeh-Yeh’s room and gets a glimpse of his life.
Moore has written a story that many immigrant parents, grandchildren and their visiting grandpas from native countries can identify with. How do we connect to relatives who are so close but so far away? What would it take to make the conduit? The double-entendre on “do” and “du” will amuse Cantonese and Mandarin speakers if they pick up the code-speaking cleverness of this important moment.
Yan’s illustrations capture the mood of every occasion, from the grouchy gray of Grandpa’s beard and attire to the confetti warmth of fried rice. Misunderstanding eventually gives way to happiness and mirth. Yan does it aptly with lighting variations, though subtle.
The level of detail in the pictures are remarkable: on one page, kids will spy the framed picture of Daisy’s grumpy cat held up by magnets on the refrigerator door. Parents will certainly turn it into an I-Spy game. The endpapers are doodles of dàn (egg), chao fan (fried rice) and dú (read), a glossary illustrated in Romanized Chinese and some characters. It isn’t consistent, however, this may be intentional.
Moore invites the reader to learn vocabulary and follow along in Cantonese. It’s whimsical and Chinglish, meant to be fun. Fans of Minh Lê and Dan Santat’s book Drawn Together will enjoy this story of Daisy’s incessant efforts to connect with a Grandpa who seems so distant. Though the grandpa in Drawn Together is smiley and rendered in comic book panels, the grandpa in Grandpa Grumps has a forever frown, both are benevolent. Nothing is lost in translation, however, if done together by heart with Grandpa Grumps whether it be drawing or cooking, laughing or doing—language barriers can be overcome. This book will tug at your heartstrings.