Remembering brings the past into the present. It comes from a root meaning "to bring to mind," so that the people and things we once saw, heard, and felt remain with us.
Performance poet and playwright Joseph Coelho understands this connection of present and past, and so his entire story about a young girl and her mutual affection with her grandfather happens in the present, even though it's about her recollections after he dies. The first scene, in spring, endearingly shows the girl and her grandfather in a garden, where he tells her, "You're too old to hold hands" — and they hold hands anyway. Allison Colpoys' ink drawings, painted in mostly primary colors with a suggestion of finger paints, reveal a priceless connection between the two simply by a gaze: hers on tiptoe smiling upward, received by his tender downward glance.
By the second page we get hints that grandpa's hand is no longer here to hold, as the girl, head bowed before seeds in her hand, kneels by a small hole she's digging and proclaims:
"If all the world were springtime,
I would replant my grandpa's birthdays
so that he would never get old."
This theme of memories and wishes travels through summer, autumn, and winter on the book's pages, as we see grandpa become more stooped and the wishes become more poignant, until winter's:
"If all the world were stories,
I could make grandpa better
just by listening, listening, listening
to every tale he has to tell."
Even when the stories fall silent and the girl helps her parents clean out his room, she finds "a kaleidoscope of memories." Then she comes upon a gift made by him just for her that allows her to tell her own stories, embodying who he was to her.
Written for children ages 4-8, this book shows how to love people even though they will die someday and to creatively transform grief if they are already gone. That the girl and her grandpa are still exploring, hand-in-hand, as they walk away from us on the book's last page conveys an essential life lesson: Death does not have the last word, not when faced with love.