by Karen Ackerman. Illustrated by Stephen Gammell. (Knopf, 1988. ISBN 0833585754. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 2-4.
This Caldecott Award winner tells a simple story, told by the grandchildren, of a grandfather who takes them to the attic where he opens a trunk full of costumes and props from his days as a song and dance man. When the stage is set and the spotlight (an old bridge lamp) is turned on, the act begins and Grandpa is transformed into the showman he once was.
The present tense narrative is simple but contains some lovely similes such as: “his voice is as round and strong as a canyon echo.” The illustrations are done with brightly colored pencils. We see grandfather first on the title page, sitting in his easy chair, grinning but looking old and tired. The colored pencil illustrations show Gammell's usual unkempt and slightly grotesque people who are somehow familiar. The shadows cast by the various lamps in the house highlight and cover some of the action which bleeds out across the print.
Children should hear and see some soft shoe as well as tap dance performances in conjunction with this book. A few clips from Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire movies would go well. Television footage of Vaudeville-type shows such as Ed Sullivan might give children some idea of Grandpa's heyday.
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