Grandpa's Window tells a story of love bolstered and loss softened by a child's drawings and paintings. Daria's grandpa is ill in a hospital where the windows — except for his — face dull, gray buildings. He has a seashore view, from which he can see "waves crashing, families swimming, kites flying." He and Daria even see a rainbow, and when Daria asks him whether they will look for the pot of gold at the rainbow's end when he gets better, he answers, "Right, sweetie."
Only he isn't getting better, as illustrator Udayana Lugo gently shows us. He's progressively paler, more bed-bound, and eventually unable to speak through an oxygen mask. We can see where the story is headed, although Daria keeps up her loving, joyous enthusiasm. It's only when Daria and her grandpa can communicate solely by squeezing each other's hand that we see her looking downcast — and the hospital window shows a storm raging.
Meanwhile, we have gradually realized that it's Daria's drawings, reflecting her love and grief, that we are viewing taped to the windows. Her pictures serve a dual purpose: allowing her to recall happy memories and brightening her grandpa's spirits and the room.
The sensitivity with which author Laura Gehl tells this story of loss and death for three-to-seven year olds is impressive. You may remember her as the author of Apple and Magnolia; her nearly three dozen books for children have received many accolades. Her collaboration with Lugo makes this book equally worthy of accolades: When Grandpa dies, many of the pages simply show the family's sorrow rather than trying to use words.
Dr. Sharie Coombes offers an afterword addressing special issues around saying goodbye to a loved one, for children especially but for all of us. A list of four organizations which can provide support for grieving children and families follows her wise advice to caregivers: "The priority is for children to understand that the love they shared with the deceased still matters."