December 1, 2016
Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Great-Grandmother Nell isn’t a cookie baking, apple picking grandma. She is a glamorous lipstick wearing dragon of a lady. She may not be soft and cuddly but that’s okay because her granddaughter loves her just the way she is.
That said, her granddaughter does wonder about her and there is so much to wonder about from the way Great-Grandmother can strike a glamorous pose to the graceful ballerina doll in her bedroom. There are the perfumes and powders that grace her dressing table and so much more including more than a little heart-break, at least some of which stemmed from her beautiful brown skin.
Just as there is so much to love about glamorous, gruff Great-Grandmother Nell, there is a great deal to love about this book as well. I have to admit that my initial curiosity stemmed from the command not to call her Grandma. I too had a grandmother — a strong, stern country woman who could chop off a snake’s head with a hoe and then cook up venison for dinner. Country to the core, she still had a formal core. My other grandmother, called either Gee-ma or Grandma, was a former flapper who later sold cosmetics. A total clothes horse, she never understood by hatred of shopping although she was more than willing to do it for me.
This book tells the story of an equally unique woman who clearly had a past – some of it joyous and some of it sad. But she also has a load of love for the great-granddaughter that she teaches to blot her lipstick just so.
Among the things that I loved most about this book are the details in the illustrations. In one scene, Great-Grandmother’s family watches from a window while she gives a song bird and earful. Maybe it twittered off-key? There are also old photographs in the background as well as bits and pieces of memorabilia including ballet photos and programs as well as civil rights buttons and news stories. I wonder what were young Nell’s dreams in addition to what she lived through. In this way, Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations add to the story and help to make it rich and rewarding.
Share this book with your young reader today, especially if she has a grandmother who is something else.