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Was startled to find that dePaola re-illustrated this unique classic in the 1990s; the new illustrations (redrawn but also in full color) have lost the haunting magic of the simple tricolor originals. I have reordered a reprint of the classic book and will give this one away.
This is a wonderful tale of a 4-year-old boy's close relationship with his 94-year-old great-grandmother. His great-grandmother lives in the upstairs bedroom of the house with his grandmother and grandfather, who play a lesser role in the book. The little boy has a weekly routine of visiting "Nana Upstairs" and sharing mints with her. It is nice to see an elderly person being cared for in the home of relatives rather than in a nursing home! She is so frail that she can't sit upright unassisted, so she is tied into a chair. Don't worry; this is not a scary thing! The little boy also insists on being tied in, so they can be alike. Eventually Nana Upstairs dies. This is not over dramatized and my children were not upset about this, perhaps because the boy is comforted when he sees a falling star in the sky and thinks it is a sign that Nana Upstairs is sending him a kiss. Years later we see the boy as an adult and we find out that Nana Downstairs has died, and he sees another shooting star and is again comforted. This is a lovely picture book representing a strong bond between a grandparents and their grandson. If you enjoy this book, you'll also like Tomie DePaola's "Now One Foot, Now the Other". I learned of this book by reading an analysis of it in the book "Inside Picture Books" by Ellen H. Spitz, which is a very detailed analysis of the content of picture books focusing on themes of bedtime, separation, grandparents, death, children's behaviors/manners, and a child's self-concept and self-esteem. My 3 and 6 year old sons love the book as do I! We originally borrowed it from the library but this is one we'll have to buy so I can keep up with their repeated requests for it! The older version has pictures in pink, tan, and black. The new version has more colors in the illustrations. Both versions are illustrated by Tomie DePaola.
This book teaches the young and old alike about ageing, compassion, and sharing time with family. In this touching ture story dePAOLA tells of losing a great grandmother. At the age of four he shows compassion and love for a disabled grandmother, sharing special time tied into their chairs sucking on peppermints, talking, and playing games every Sunday afternoon. The illustrations tenderly show his surprise at finding her room empty and his moment sitting by himself on the floor hugging his knees, crying softly. In our family four grand children under the age of nine (three under the age of six) lost their grandfather. Our family used this story to talk about the empty space left, that it is okay to feel sad (a sadness we all felt), and to remember good times we had spent together. 4 months later we still talk about our feelings through references to different illustrations in the book.
Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs