What Do You Call Your Grandpa? by Ashleigh Barton

Reviewed by Gerard Healy

This delightful winner from writer Ashleigh Barton and illustrator Martina Heiduczek should entertain younger children (from 4 upwards) and their carers of all ages.

The format gives us a snapshot of life in different cultures around the world as we learn the names for grandfather in each locale. A clever method of helping us with the pronunciation of the word for grandfather is the rhyming pairs that end each line. Thus ‘ride’ and ‘Taid’ (a Welsh word) and ájar’ and ‘Nna Nna’ (from the Igbo language of Nigeria) give the clue to otherwise foreign words.

Geographically, most of the continents are covered including Oceania (a Maori and Indigenous Australian perspective) but not North America per se. However, the Europeans include an Italian soccer playing grandpa, a Welsh bike-riding one and a puddle-splashing Belgium. These activities would be familiar to most North American readers. Perhaps more importantly, we begin to realise that it’s not the place that matters but the shared enterprise undertaken by young and old that counts here.

Each place visited sets the scene for some of the various ways that grandpas interact with their grandchildren. Whether it’s kicking a soccer ball around, playing hide and seek in public parks or fishing from a small canoe there are a range of enjoyable and interactive activities to consider. Interestingly, most of these fun things to do don’t cost much money and the only one that might be expensive is looking at the night sky through a large telescope. You could feasibly do that for free, if you wanted to.

The illustrations by Martina Heiduczek lift and enrich the text wonderfully. Many of the pages greet us with bright, cheerful colours that emphasise the joyful interactions being undertaken. Even the darkened room of a Nigerian bedroom at night fades into shadow as the light falls on the pair rapt in the age-old custom of reading a story together.

Also, the attention to detail in several illustrations is well done. The fine lines depicting the Maori legend of a child riding a whale and the drawings beside the aged astronomer in Africa are two good examples.

One interesting absence in this text is that of Grandmothers. Only the Italian scene includes her and then she’s passively inside, while active nonno is outside passing on his love of football to his young charge.

There are some subtle messages embedded in the text for the astute reader. One is the universal nature of how male elders care deeply for their grandchildren, another is the joy that different generations can have in each other’s company. A third one is the playfulness of the older age group and their willingness to get out and do things. The classic case is the Brazilian grandpa (‘VoVo’) and his climbing skills.

On a personal note, this year I joined that happy band who have to choose a grandfatherly title for themselves. This book helped widen the choices in an entertaining way. I would thoroughly recommend it to readers of all ages, but especially to those with grandchildren to read to.

Ashleigh Barton is a communications professional, who markets and promotes children’s books. She is also a freelance content writer and copywriter and she has a food blog.

Martina Heiduczek grew up in a small village on the Baltic Sea in Germany and now lives in Australia. This is the second book she’s illustrated after “Duck, Apple, Egg.”

What Do You Call Your Grandpa?


by Ashleigh Barton (writer) and Martina Heiduczek (illustrator)

Harper Collins

ISBN: 978 0 7333 4086 4

$17.99     32 pp


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