50 Grand Books With Grandparents
Curated and submitted by Karen Ritz of www.GrandyCamp.info. Karen is a long-time illustrator with a degree in Children’s Literature. She and her team compiled a mega-list of picture books (curated for literary quality) with grandparents in them.
Some of these grandmas are raising grandkids, some are world travelers, and others take over coaching your baseball team. Some of these grandpas danced on a vaudeville stage, can teach you how to catch a fish, and know your favorite ice cream flavor. Some are starting to forget. All of these grandparents show great love and wisdom with their beloved grandchildren. Chosen by children’s literature professionals, these illustrated books have been taught in graduate study classrooms, and passed the true test – loved by our own kids and grandkids. A few are brand new, but getting grand literary reviews! Just reading the list will make you smile.
All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, illus. by Mike Wimmer. Told in the voice of a child who lives on a farm with his parents and grandparents, the author’s poetic narrative opens on the day of the boy’s birth, when his grandmother holds him up to the open window, “So that what I heard first was the wind. What I saw first were all the places to love: the valley, the river falling down over rocks, the hilltop where the blueberries grew.” The child introduces readers to the spots that each person in his family loves best.
Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats…and her purse. You never know what she’ll have in there–fancy jewelry, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it’s pure magic!
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee. Frazee salutes grandparents and slyly notes children’s diversions in this breezy tale of “the best week ever.” After Eamon enrolls in nature camp, he and his friend James spend nights with his grandparents, Bill and Pam, at their beach cottage. Humorous contradictions arise between the hand-lettered account (“Bill handed them each a pair of binoculars and a list of birds to look for. On the way home, the boys reported their findings”) and voice-bubble exchanges between the boys (Eamon, training the lenses on James: “His freckles are huge.” James: “Yeah, and his tongue is gross”). Fun!
How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan, illus. by Lee Wildish. Written in a how-to style, the narrator gives important tips for “babysitting” a grandpa, including what to eat for snack (anything dipped in ketchup, ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream) what to do on a walk (find lizards and dandelion puffs, be on the lookout for puddles and sprinklers), and how to play with a grandpa (build a pirate cave, put on a scary play).
How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan, illus. by Lee Wildish. In a companion to Reagan’s How to Babysit a Grandpa, a young girl heads over to her grandma’s house for a sleepover babysitting session-with the child providing clear and humorous instructions to readers on how to care for a grandma. The to-do list contains many choices for Grandma to select from, including a walk to the park, reading, taking photos, playing dress-up, and adding sugary sprinkles to her meal items.
Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman, illus. by Stephen Gammell. In this affectionate story, three children follow their grandfather up to the attic where he pulls out his old bowler hat, gold-tipped cane, and his tap shoes. Grandpa once danced on the vaudeville stage, and as he glides across the floor, the children are completely engaged in the magical performance. You are only as old as you feel! Caldecott Honor.
The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster, illus. by Chris Raschka. The window in Nanna and Poppy’s kitchen is no ordinary window–it is the place where love and magic happens. It’s where the girl and her doting grandparents watch stars, play games, and, most importantly, say hello and goodbye. The first-person text is both simple and sophisticated, conjuring a perfectly child-centered world. “When I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up” typifies the girl’s happy, imaginative world. Caldecott Medal.
Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie by Norton Juster, illus. by Chris Raschka. This welcome sequel to the Caldecott Medal title The Hello, Goodbye Window knowingly describes a child’s conflicting personalities. “Sometimes I’m Sourpuss,” a multiracial girl admits. “And sometimes I’m Sweetie Pie.” Her grandparents, Poppy and Nanna, accept her dueling dispositions, but when she visits they like to know whom to expect. “Poppy, it’s me, Sweetie Pie,” she promises, keeping her alter ego at bay. Both the sunny moments and the tantrums will ring true for readers of any age.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Stephen Gammell. Driving from Virginia in an old station wagon with an ice chest full of pop and bologna sandwiches, a carload of relatives drive all day and night in a rainbow-colored station wagon that smelled like a real car. When they arrived, they hugged and hugged from the kitchen to the front room. They tended the garden, ate up all the strawberries and melons, plucked banjos and strummed guitars. The sleeping scene is my favorite! Caldecott Honor.
When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Diane Goode. Rylant delights in the simple joys of living with her grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains: fresh cornbread, the swimming hole, bathing in the tin tub, snakes, and the community church. Surrounding all of these memories is the loving relationship with her grandparents.
Henry and Mudge and the Bedtime Thumps by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Sucie Stevenson. Henry and his 180-pound dog, Mudge, are best friends forever. In this adventure, they spend a scary night together at Henry’s grandmother’s house in the country. Grandma’s house is so small Mudge keeps knocking stuff over forcing Henry’s dad to put Mudge outside and leaving poor Henry to sleep alone. Ultimately, the story ends with Henry and Mudge sleeping outside together under the bench on the porch. Favorite early reader.
Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Sucie Stevenson. Henry (and of course Mudge) loves to visit Great Grandpa Bill. He lives in a house with a lot of other grandpas who like to play with a little boy and his dog. But when Henry discovers a swimming pond near the grandpas’ house, he finds out how much fun the grandpas really can be. Favorite early reader.
The Grandma Mix-up by Emily Arnold McCully. When Pip’s parents go away on a trip, she ends up with two grandmas to baby-sit her. Pip is ready for fun — but strict Grandma Nan and easygoing Grandma Sal can’t agree on anything! It’s time for Pip to take charge. Easy Reader.
Grandmas at the Lake by Emily Arnold McCully. Pip has two grandmas: fuss-budget Grandma Nan and easygoing Grandma Sal. If one says “yes,” the other immediately says “no”; so when Pip and his buddy Ski go for a holiday in the country with both the grandmas, they need to find a compromise. Easy reader.
Grandmas at Bat by Emily Arnold McCully. In this quirky duo’s third adventure, the Grandmas pitch in to help when Pip’s regular baseball coach gets chicken pox. But the trouble is, neither of them know beans about the game. A double-threat winner, combining the humor of the two grandmas with enough play-by-play description to gladden the hearts of young baseball fans. Easy reader.
Coming On Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by E. B. Lewis. Ada Ruth’s mama must go away to Chicago to work, leaving Ada Ruth and Grandma behind. It’s war time, and women are needed to fill the men’s jobs. As winter sets in, Ada Ruth and her grandma keep up their daily routine, missing Mama all the time. They find strength in each other, and a stray kitten even arrives one day to keep them company, but nothing can fill the hole Mama left. Every day they wait, watching for the letter that says Mama will be coming on home soon. Caldecott Honor.
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo. A young boy spends an overnight visit with his nana and is frightened to find that the city where she lives is filled with noise and crowds and scary things. But then Nana makes him a special cape to help him be brave, and soon the everyday sights, sounds, and smells of the city are not scary—but wonderful.
What Grandmas Do Best/What Grandpas Do Best by Laura Numeroff, illus. Lynn Munsinger. Grandmas can do lots of things, like paint with you, take you on a picnic, and teach you how to dance. Grandpas can do lots of things, like play hide-and-seek, help you build a sand castle, and sing you a lullaby. But what do they do best? The answer is made perfectly clear in this irresistible celebration of grandparents and the everyday things they do. Read one, flip, and read the other!
Big Mama by Donald Crews. Four African American children travel with their mother, and when the train arrives in Cottondale, Florida, the summer at Bigmama’s house begins! Donald Crews brilliantly evokes the sights, sounds, and emotions of a memorable childhood experience.
Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie de Paola. Tommy is four years old, and he loves visiting the home of his grandmother, Nana Downstairs, and his great-grandmother, Nana Upstairs. But one day Tommy’s mother tells him Nana Upstairs won’t be there anymore, and Tommy must struggle with saying goodbye to someone he loves.
Now One Foot, Now the Other by Tomie de Paola. Touching story about a young boy coping with his grandfather’s disability has long been one of Tomie dePaola’s most popular picture books. Readers of all ages will love to watch Grandpa Bob teach Bobby to walk, and how Bobby returns the favor when Bob has a stroke, all in beautifully rich full color.
Grandma’s Feather Bed by John Denver, illus. by Christopher Canyon. Upbeat, funny and irresistibly singable, this song was made famous by John Denver and now made doubly memorable by delightful illustrations by Christopher Canyon. Hardback edition comes with a CD – kids will say, “Play it again!” – and turn the pages to follow along. It is all about the cousins, the chicken pie, four hound dogs and a piggy, but as the song says, the best darn thing about Grandma’s house was her great big feather bed.
Monster Night at Grandma’s House by Richard Peck, illus. by Don Freeman. After spending several nights in fear, Toby decides to confront the monster which is probably lurking in the halls of his Grandma’s house!
The Lost Picnic by B. B. Cronin. Grandad is taking his grandchildren on a picnic in his jalopy. They ride on a busy highway full of cars and signs, past charming villages and topiary-filled parks, out into the country. But when they finally arrive at the picnic spot, they discover all their food has tumbled out of the car along the way! It’s up to readers to find the missing food so the family can enjoy their meal at last. A seek and find book.
Grandpa’s Face by Eloise Greenfield, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Tamika loves everything about her grandpa, especially his expressive face. But one day, when Tamika watches Grandpa rehearsing for a play, she sees a different face, one she has never seen before.
The Trees With the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco. Trisha loves the eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. But It is difficult for them to enjoy their Hanukkah feast when they know that their neighbors, experiencing a scarlet fever epidemic, won’t be able to celebrate their holiday. Then Grampa has an inspiration: they will cut down trees, decorate them, and secretly deliver them to the neighbors. Although it is a sacrifice, Trisha realizes that Grampa’s carved animals would be the perfect decoration. Soon her living room is filled with trees — but that is only the first miracle of many during an incredible holiday season.
When I Go Camping With Grandma, by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. by Alan Garns. A young girl goes camping with her grandmother and, whether paddling a kayak or setting up camp, experiences the wonders of nature and of love.
Sun (Seasons with Granddad) by Sam Usher. It’s the hottest day of the year, hotter than broccoli soup, hotter than the Atacama Desert, hotter than the surface of the sun. It’s just the right kind of day for a boy and his granddad to go for a picnic. But as the sun beats down, Granddad keeps having to stop for a rest, and by the time they find the perfect picnic spot, some pirates have beaten them to it. Good thing they have enough food to share!
Rain (Seasons with Granddad) by Sam Usher. Sam wants to go out, but it’s pouring rain, so Granddad says they need to stay inside until the rain stops. Sam drinks hot chocolate and reads his books and dreams of adventures while Granddad does some paperwork. When Granddad needs to mail his letter, it’s time to go out—despite the rain and floods—and Sam and Granddad have a magical adventure.
Snow (Seasons with Granddad) by Sam Usher. Every child loves a snow day—no school and snowball fights galore! But Sam has to wait for Granddad, even though all the other kids have already gone to the park . . . and all the dogs . . . and all the zoo animals! Only when the two finally arrive does Granddad see why Sam was in such a hurry—and they have the best time playing with everyone in the snow.
Snow by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Lauren Stringer. Cynthia Rylant’s lyrical descriptions of the sights and feelings evoked by falling snow blend gorgeously with the rich and beautiful world created by Lauren Stringer’s illustrations, in which a young girl, her friend, and her grandmother enjoy the many things a snowy day has to offer.
Bunny Mail by Rosemary Wells. Ruby is busy sending out party invitations, so Max decides he’ll write a letter too, asking for a special present. But when the postman delivers the letter to Grandma, she thinks Max is just saying hello. So Max sends another letter. It soon becomes clear to Grandma that Max is asking for something special. The only question is what? Lift the flap book.
What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur Levine, illus. by Katie Kath. Every morning is beautiful when Noah visits his Grandparents. When Grandpa and Noah wake up, they take off singing and hardly stop: walking the dog, splashing through puddles, and eating French toast with cinnamon. But one summer Grandpa seems to have forgotten how to do the things they love. Does he even know who Noah is? Grandma steps in energetically, filling in as best she can. But it is Noah who finds the way back to something he can share with Grandpa. Something musical. Something that makes the morning beautiful again.
The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illus. by Doug Wood. A cozy bed, a snoring granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing–WAIT! There’s a surprise in store, and little ones will want to discover it over and over again. Don and Audrey Wood’s beloved picture book has sold more than one and a half million copies.
The Full Moon at the Napping House by Audrey Wood, illus. by Doug Wood. In the wide-awake bed in the full-moon house, everyone is restless! The moonlight is pouring in and no one can get to sleep: not Granny, her grandchild, the dog, the cat, or even a mouse. It’s not until a tiny musical visitor offers up a soothing song that the menagerie settle down, and finally everyone is off to dreamland.
Nora’s Ark by Natalie Kinsey-warnock, illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. A flood is coming! When the water climbs to the rooftops, where will everybody go? To Grandma’s house, of course, high up on a hill. Before long, the house is full of people, chickens, ducks, pigs, horses, cats, and even a cow. There’s only one person missing — Grandpa! This heartwarming story is based on a real-life event: the Vermont Flood of 1927.
Granpa by John Birmingham. Adorable Granpa gamely nurses his granddaughter’s dolls, eats her pretend strawberry-flavored ice cream, takes her tobogganing in the snow, and falls in step with her imaginary plans to captain a ship to Africa—like all good grandfathers should.
When the Snow Falls by Linda Booth Sweeney, illus. by Jana Christy. With sparkling flakes calling from outside, this sister and brother bundle up for an outdoor adventure with Grandma. In the hushed woods, they see and hear wildlife thriving under a new blanket of snow. In the bustle of town, they help their grateful Grandpa dig out. Then, it’s time to get sledding!
Llama Llama Gram and Grampa by Anna Dewdney. Llama Llama is going to visit Gram and Grandpa Llama and spend the night! It’s his first night away from home….and from Mama. There are so many fun things to do with Gram and Grandpa! He makes sure to pack everything he needs, and it’s not until he gets ready for bed that he realizes that he’s forgotten something important. Fortunately, Grandpa Llama has a solution.
Spot visits his Grandparents by Eric Hill. Celebrate summer with Spot and his friends in these brand-new lift-the- flap editions! Kids can still lift the flaps to bake a cake and to spend time with Spot and his grandparents. Lots of little details to find – colors, numbers and objects mixed in.
You Are My Wish by Maryann Cusimano Love, illus. by Satomi Ichikawa. Honoring the special bonds between grandparent and grandchild – passing along tradition, joyful spoiling, nurturing imagination, and pure adoration. Whether it’s the sharing of stories or romping horsey rides, silly tickle fights, or lazy fishing trips, there’s truly nothing like it.
Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth by Doug Wood, illus. by P. J. Lynch. A boy and his Grandpa walk in a world of tall trees that reach for the clouds and sun and moon and stars — and what else is reaching for heaven but a prayer? Each time he and Grandad walk in the woods, the boy listens for the prayers of the earth and asks: “Are our prayers answered?” One day, long after Grandad is gone, long after the boy is grown, he understands Grandad’s reply: “If we listen very closely, a prayer is often its own answer.”
Something Special For Me by Vera Williams. The money jar that Rosa, Mama, and Grandma filled with their coins will be emptied to buy Rosa whatever she wants for her birthday. But what can Rosa choose that is special enough-unless it’s a gift they can all enjoy!
A Chair for my Mother by Vera Williams. After their home is destroyed by a fire, Rosa, her mother, and grandmother save their coins to buy a really comfortable chair for all to enjoy. Caldecott Honor.
I Really Want to See You, Grandma by Taro Gomi. Yumi and her grandmother have the same great idea: They want to see each other. So they each head out to do just that, only to completely miss each other along the way! No problem—they’ll just head back home and wait for the other to return. The trouble is that they have the same great idea—again—resulting in the ultimate missed connection! Will this duo ever find each other? Leave it to bestselling author-illustrator Taro Gomi to spin an action-packed story that sweetly, and humorously, celebrates the powerful grandparent-child bond.
Tiny, Perfect Things by M. H. Clark, illus. by Madeline Kloepper. Story of a child and a grandfather whose walk around the neighborhood leads to a day of shared wonder as they discover all sorts of tiny, perfect things together. With rhythmic storytelling and detailed and intricate illustrations, this is a book about how childlike curiosity can transform ordinary days into extraordinary adventures.
Drawn Together by Minh Le, illus. by Dan Santat. When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.
Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan, illus. by Eric Fan. From the creators of the gorgeous bestseller The Night Gardener, comes a stunning new picture book about a young boy who sets sail to find a place his grandfather told him about…the spot where the ocean meets the sky.
The Lines On Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo. It’s granny’s birthday, but her little granddaughter wonders why, because of the lines on her face, she looks so worried! But they are simply wrinkles, and grandma is very fond of her lines because they are where she keeps her memories.
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline. When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she asks about an old cigar box. Inside she finds a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, objects she can hold in her hand. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write. A breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations.
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Alice Rumphius grew up living by the sea with an artist grandfather who taught her many important things. She went on to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful. Beauty resonates with each new generation.M
Click her to see Karen’s list of books for newborns
*We fully support shopping with local, independent bookstores, but the “IndieBound” linking system is too labor-intensive for such a long list. Most of these gems will also be available at your local library. These are Amazon Affiliate links which can support GrandyCamp in a small way if you shop from the link. The entire list (and others for newborns, bedtime, etc) is available on our Amazon GrandyCamp Shopping List HERE.
– Karen Ritz, creator of www.GrandyCamp.info – website and social for active, busy grandparents, B.S. Children’s Literature and Illustration, University of Minnesota, illustrator of 46 children’s books, and “Gumma” to Jack and Grace.
– Dr. Lee Galda, Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s & Young Adult Literature, Emerita, University of Minnesota, co-editor of Literature and the Child, now in its 9th edition, and “Readie” to Bennett and Odessa.
– Dr. Rebecca Rapport, retired Children’s Literature Professor, University of Minnesota, former editor of New Books for Young Readers, and practicing with many Grand Nieces and Nephews.