Children's Book Review: Adventures With Grandpa

Escapades Veer Into the Fantastic, But Retain Human Element

grandfather and grandson have imaginative adventures in children's picture book
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Grandpa books aren't as common as grandma books, so a book with an involved grandfather as a character is a good find. Adventures With Grandpa was created by Rosemary Mastnak, who created two charming Grandma books before turning her attention to Grandpa. In this latest book, a sturdy grandson and resourceful Grandpa explore Grandpa's shed for the raw materials for their fantastic adventures, which include fighting a dragon and riding in a hot-air balloon.

Rosemary Mastnak's earlier books — 2008's Dancing With Grandma and 2009's Cooking With Grandma — focused on female characters. In Adventures With Grandpa she switches to a grandfather and grandson duo, with equally enchanting results. Although each book has the same format and overall look, each has a different set of charms, which is great for both grandchildren and grandparents.

The Story Line

As with most picture books, the story line is slim. A young boy goes to his grandfather's shed in search of his grandpa and adventure. The cave is a fascinating place: "It's full of this and that. / Forgotten things. / Things he wants to save. / It's like a magic cave!"

Among the this and that, grandfather and grandson find the stuff that adventures are made of. A old bathtub becomes a pirate ship, with a broom for a mast and a shower curtain for a sail. An umbrella becomes the nosecone for a rocket.

A garbage can lid makes an admirable shield for facing a fire-breathing dragon. Whatever adventure they envision, the raw materials are right there in Grandpa's shed. The final image of the book depicts the pair having tea with Grandma and sharing a high five for the adventures of the day.

Special Touches

As with her previous books, Mastnak's animal characters add a whimsical touch.

In addition to the dog introduced in Cooking With Grandma, this narrative features a "chook," Australian lingo for a chicken or hen, and a couple of sheep. A pair of birds — maybe fairy wrens? — flit through the pages gathering nesting material. Unlike her previous books, this one is written in a sort of free-floating verse with random rhyme.

Mastnak is an award-winning watercolor artist, specializing in plein air. In this book, her drawings aren't always perfectly rendered. Some panels are more successful than others, and occasionally the scale and proportion seem awry. But that's not likely to be noticed by the grandchildren, and all of her illustrations do an admirable job of engaging the interest and also portraying the warm relationships among the characters.

Adventures With Grandpa is a generously sized, well-crafted hardback book that is a joy to handle and look at, but if you lean toward e-books, it is also available in a Kindle version.  Whatever format you prefer, If you don't have Mastnak's books in your library to share with grandchildren, you should. You may find yourself looking at them even when the grandkids aren't around!