Grandma’s Tiny House beautifully affirms Black family-love while being a super clever counting book. It reminds me of Just a Minute! by Yuyi Morales and that’s a pretty remarkable book!
The story begins with Grandma sitting in her very tiny house, waiting for her HUGE family, friends and neighbors to roll through. Dish by dish, pot by pot, all her guests bring delicious treats (mostly soul-food classics) to share. But very quickly, they run out of space until one of her granddaughters has a GREAT idea that’ll keep the party going (without it being a tight squeeze)!
There’s so much to love about this book. First of all, JaNay Brown-Wood’s rhyme is wonderful; simple and strong, with great read aloud/story-time appeal:
SEVEN cool uncles stroll up in a line, / with EIGHT jugs of lemonade, ice-cold and fine.
The text and illustration create a sense of excitement and anticipation as more & more quests begin to arrive. Will they fit? What will Grandma do with so many people in her house? Will there be enough food for everyone?? That’s the most important question, honestly! (lol) In addition to being a counting book, this book also plays with size—the house literally expands as friends and family push against the four walls. In one of the first spreads of the book, Grandma looks lovingly at her huge wall of family photos. Though her house is tiny, she has enough space for this large (and growing) collection of love & pride.
There’s just the right amount of text to make this a flowing and impactful read-aloud. Grandma’s guests stroll, strut, and even STAMPEDE up to her house! When the nine aunties are chatting around the ten cheesecakes, I can hear that! I can hear that familiar hum of comfortable conversation & laughter. Priscilla Burris’ Photoshop illustrations realistically mimic watercolor. Her lines are sketchy and loose yet are full bodied. I love the bits of white that she leaves on the page in between the bursts of watercolor. I love seeing the children run towards the tiny house, ready to eat and play and be silly.
Grandma’s Tiny House is an #ownvoices book (African American culture) illustrated by a White author. It’s an excellent example of how to do research and how to do it right. Burris does a great job of depicting diverse Black hairstyles and Black/Soul Food. The aunties all have distinct hairstyles as do the children and the uncles. All the people in the book have varying shades of brown & beige skin. The only thing missing was more body diversity.
Reading this book made me hungry! Looking at those hot pots of greens and hamhocks, those deliciously round sweet potato pies, and those dewy green cantaloupes made me miss dinners over my grandma Eva’s house. Though my grandparents have all passed away, I consider myself blessed to have grown up with their southern food and their love. I’m also excited about the potential conversations the food in this book might bring up in a classroom, library or home setting. Greens & hamhocks and sweet potato pies are not very well known outside of Southern and Black cooking. I’m always surprised when I have to explain what sweet potato pie is to someone, so it’s validating to see Soul Food celebrated in a picture book for children.
Grandma’s Tiny House is a fun dive into family, summertime, love and food. JaNay Brown-Wood and Priscilla Burris did a very fine job creating a lovely counting-read-aloud. I hope you’ll check it out!
Recommended for: All ages but especially Pre-K
Great for: Family, Love, Counting, Size, Friendship, Read Aloud, Diversity, Ownvoices, Soul Food, Sharing
Book Info: Grandma’s Tiny House by JaNay Brown-Wood/Illustrated by Priscilla Burris, 2017 Charlesbridge, ISBN: 9781580897129