Values: Love, Empathy, Compassion and Patience.
This picturebook is striking and unique. It's artwork is what captured my attention - is is mature, layered and collaged compared to a lot of other picturebooks. This book, published by Book Island, has been translated from Dutch funded by a kick starter.
Maia is a little girl who is impatient, curious and impulsive - just like her beloved grandmother, who is her best friend. The two share many interests and personality traits, including their love of cake! Unfortunately one day Grandma has a stroke and life changes for both of them; Maia has to learn to cope with this change, and connect with her grandmother in new ways. We see Maia's confusion and then her frustration when she can understand what Grandma wants (she 'reads in Grandma's eyes what she wants'), but other adults do not seem to be able to do so. In the book, we see Maia's thoughts and words shown as bold text contrasted with the narrative text. The beautiful pictures move from Maia and Grandma as inseparable to images of Maia poignantly portrayed on her own. The background collage-like artwork depicts memorabilia from Grandma's past and this can be really interested to study with children. Interestingly, the little animals can be talked about as metaphors and it is interesting to see children's interpretations of why the illustrator has included them. Maia's world continues to crumble as her grandfather passes away, and Grandma cries so much that "Soon the whole room will be flooded! Then we'll sail all the way to China!". The book is such a gem as it sensitively managed the juxtaposition of serious themes and child-like responses, and gives plenty of room for discussion with children.
The Value of compassion runs throughout the whole book. It is engrained in the pictures and the words. Compassion opens up all sorts of conversations with children - Who are you close to? What makes your relationship special? Have you experienced someone in your family becoming ill? How did this make you feel? Bereavement is a theme in the book too, and you could talk about this compassionately too, although how you do would depend on the individual situation.
Love is also apparent in the relationships in the book. Maia loves her Grandma unconditionally - she works very hard to understand her grandmother after the stoke and ensure she is still happy and comfortable. The love between her grandparents is also apparent after her grandfather's death and the metaphor about flooding the room with tears. A circle time or bedtime discussion about what love means to different children can be very thought-provoking.
Maia shows a great deal of empathy for a child her age. We see this in the pictures as well as her thoughts and words. Looking at the pictures, how does Maia show empathy? What does she do/say to show her grandmother she still cares? How have you shown someone who cannot easily communicate with you that you care? (This could be a peer with little English, a baby sibling or a grandparent.)
Patience is a Value that can be discussed through Maia And What Matters. At the start of the book, we see Maia's impatience even on page one where the author describes that on the day Maia was born, her mother was engrossed in a book, but Maia would not wait and was born right under the cherry tree! As the book continues, we see Maia learning to be patient with Grandma and listen to her in different ways, as Grandma loses the ability to talk.
This book has been endorsed by The Stroke Association, which is a powerful testimony to how sensitively and compassionately Tine Mortier has written this picturebook, focusing on a grandmother and granddaughter relationship. You can find your own copy on The Book Island website. Follow Tine Mortier on Twitter: @TineMortier - I think you will know the perfect time to use this book either with your own children or in school.
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