Guest Book Review: Grandma’s Gift

We are so excited to have teachers participating in our National Picture Book Month Celebration.  Teachers have been sharing books on our morning broadcast show each morning.  Also, Mrs. Kelly Hocking is doing a guest post on our blog today to review one of her new favorite books.  Enjoy her review.

Picture Book Review by Kelly Hocking

Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez

Have you ever read one of those books that just has so much in common with your life that you just can’t believe it?  Well, that’s what the book Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez was like for me.  I picked it up because the apartment on the front cover reminded me of the apartment my Dad grew up in.  I have fond memories of it because my Dad grew up in New York City, and so when we visited my grandparents, we got to go to that big amazing city.  You can imagine how surprised I was when I started to read the book, and sure enough, it WAS New York City.  The little boy, Eric, had a grandma in the city, just like me!  Eric had a school assignment over the Christmas Holiday to go see a painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My Grandpa worked there as a guard when I was a child, and, just like Eric, I was so inspired by a painting I saw there once that I decided I would go to art school when I grew up…and I did—and so did Eric (in real life.)

Not everything in this book reminds me of myself.  You see, Eric has to translate everything for his grandma.  She is Puerto Rican and cannot read English.  At one point, Eric says he feels like he’s “going to school for two.”  I don’t know how that feels, but that’s why I read books, to try to feel what other people might feel so I can understand them better.  Eric and his grandma feel pretty uncomfortable in parts of the city because no one looks or speaks like them.  They feel much more at home at “ LaMarqueta,” the market in their neighborhood where everyone speaks Spanish and looks more like they do.  Grandma is famous for her Christmas “pasteles,” a delicious Puerto Rican dish that she would serve and even share with all the people in her neighborhood.  My mouth just watered at the description of how Eric and Grandma made the little bundles.  I could smell them in their oven as they baked.  I could swear little puffs of fragrant steam were radiating off that page.  If only I could find that recipe.

That same grandma of mine who raised 7 children (my Daddy being the baby) in a small apartment in New York City once told me to always read EVERY page of a book.  “Don’t stop where the story stops.  There could be a secret just for you on one of the pages about the author or even on the back cover.”  Many times, this little reading tip has led me to my next book.  But this time, it led me to something yummier.  Guess what I found as I went on to read the “Author’s Note?”  I not only found out more about the author (who was really the little boy in the story,) I found a web site that has the recipe for the very pasteles that Grandma and Eric cooked.  You don’t have to guess what I’m making this Christmas to share with my family.  Mmmmmm, I can smell them already!

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