I have been meaning to write this list forever, but the end of the summer is always crazy with back to school shopping that I forget and miss posting before Grandparents Day at the start of September. I am so happy I gathered this many books about grandmothers to create this resource because celebrating grandmothers is a worthwhile activity. Also, if I am honest, the waiting ended up being a good thing because there are some great books on this list that weren’t published years ago, score one for procrastination. While reading these books, I thought about how for many children, maybe some of your students this year, their grandmothers are their primary caregivers. Books about Grandmothers ( and yes I will be doing one for Grandfathers too) are essential to have on your bookshelves as part of creating a culturally responsive classroom. Browse through this list and see if you can find some titles that will help you create a more culturally responsive classroom. Books are far from the only tool we have to use for a culturally responsive classroom, but they are accessible and relatively inexpensive.
This book list about grandmothers contains affiliate links.
Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. She visits a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru where she buys the souvenirs that relate to the country’s culture. These quick stops and details offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids. The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler; this is a must for any jet setting family.
Grandmas’s Tiny House; A Counting Story by JaNay Brown Wood is the most adorable story turned into a rhyming counting book. The story is about Grandma’s little house where friends and a growing family all come, with food in hand, to be together. Will the house hold everyone? The text is JUST the right length for preschool circle time, and the rhyming makes it a fun read for one or many listening kids. The illustrations by Pricilla Burris make me one part hungry, and the other part all happy inside as the love this Grandma has for her family jumps off every page.
The Lines On Nana’s Face by Simone Ciraolo is a pretty book, it’s cover called me from across a bookstore… but the story is just as sweet. A little girl is helping her Nana celebrate her birthday and is concerned about the creases and wrinkles on Nana’s face. Nana tells her they are memories and shares them with her granddaughter, which readers get to see illustrated in the following pages. I love this book it reminds me of sitting on my Nanny’s lap and asking about her jewelry before Sunday dinners.
Bigmama’s by Donald Crews is an homage to the author’s summers spent in Cottondale, Florida at his Bigmama’s house. He’d get there by train, explore the farm, check out the outhouse and well, and go fishing with his siblings. You get the distinct feeling that this farm in rural Florida is very different than where this family lives. Many kids can relate to that, I know mine can, traveling to see relatives can feel like entering a totally different world sometimes. Bigmama’s is a great book that offers teachers and parents alike chance to talk about visiting family and the unique experiences that it offers us.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros is a book about the relationship between a little girl and her Abuela as they go on a fantastic adventure visiting places that are significant to Abuela and her journey from her home country to the United States. It’s a playful book that uses fantasy to delight readers as they touch on issues like immigration and cultural assimilation – did you know that patio was a Spanish word? If you are like me you might feel foolish for not making the connection. A little bit of text on each page is in Spanish and there is a glossary in the back. This book is a little long for circle time reading before kindergarten but one on one it would be great with younger children.
Grandma’s Latkes by Malka Drucker is a story about two important things many Grandmas do; pass on oral history and recipes. In this case, it’s a recipe for latkes and the story of Hanukah being told to a little girl named Molly by her grandmother as they cook the potato pancakes together. This is a lovely book, but it is too long for a shared reading in preschool, it would be a wonderful book to share in a smaller group while making latkes.
A Day with Yayah by Nicola I. Campbell is a sweet book about children spending the day searching for edible plants with their grandmother, Yayah, and other elders. As they search and learn about the plants they find, they are also learning more about their Nlaka’pamux language. Many words are dispersed throughout the text, and there is a guide at the back of the book for proper pronunciation. The story is all about learning how to be respectful to the land, and pay attention to what they are gathering and what they don’t want to gather. I love how this book focuses on the transmission of knowledge of Nlaka’pamux as well as the plants from grandmother to children, something that was stolen from generations of Indigenous people in Canada and the United States through residential schools and the 60s scoop. The illustrations by Julie Flett could all be framed, each and every one, they are masterpieces. The text is quite long, but save this title for your students or children when they are capable of sitting a little longer, you don’t want to miss it.
My Abuelita by Tony Johnston is a funny but touching book about a boy and his Abuela who he lives with as she prepares to go to work that day. Together with her cat Frida Kahlo ( which made me snort) they prep for the day in the most dreamy way with tons of humor and an amazing relationship between the two. Like many of the books on this list, there are Spanish words sprinkled throughout, but no need for a glossary as the words are always very much in context. The illustrations which are made from clay and other materials by Yuyi Morales are stunning and you could probably spend an hour just looking at them.
Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love is a world I want to live in where women and children and even chihuahuas can be mermaids if they please. In this story, a little boy who LOVES mermaids is on the metro with his Abuela and sees women dressed as mermaids. His imagination runs wild and he is enchanted! When he gets home, he transforms himself into a mermaid while his Abuela is busy. When his Abuela interrupts, she thinks he may be in trouble, heck we all believe he may be in trouble, but the end is far from it. While this book doesn’t overtly address the LGBTQ community, Julian is going against gender stereotypes as he dresses like a mermaid. Showing loved ones who you are can be scary, this book manages to dive into that with such grace. This is easily one of the best books I have read that celebrates a child’s true self, and I read a lot of picture books. GO, buy it now!
Here Comes Grandma! by Janet Lord is a little book with a big heart. It has a very simple premise and text that somehow manages to make Grandma into a superhero. No matter what Grandma will find a way to come and see you. The book covers many different modes of transportation, which will make it an instant hit with most three-year-olds I know. I think this little book would be a fun circle time read for young preschoolers; in fact, I think I might create a lesson plan with it. After reading you could ask your students how they would like to travel to see someone, include some options from the book and make a graph!
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina made me all teary-eyed. It’s an honest little story about a girl and the newly widowed grandmother from far away who has come to live with her and share a bedroom. Mia doesn’t speak much Spanish, and Abuela speaks very little Engish, but as the story progresses, their relationship and language skills do too. I love this book, it touches on so many important ideas, from loss, immigration, language differences, and of course, the special relationship between a girl and her grandmother. Fantastic!
Grandma’s House by Alice Melvin was so much more than I was expecting. What a discovery, as this little girl explores her grandma’s house readers turn pages with cut out, lift flaps that reveal more rooms, and places to find treasure. I don’t think I am related to this author, but holy smokes did she capture my mom’s house, complete with tins and sewing machine. This book will become a favorite of children who love to re-imagine books, writing their own stories in their heads as they explore detailed illustrations. I found this at my library, but I think I may need to add this book to my collection.
Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena is an award-winning book that deserves every award it gets. The story is simple. A little boy and his Nana take the bus after church to a shelter. There they help serve food to people living there. The inclusiveness comes in how Nana speaks to CJ her grandson about all the different people they encounter on their journey. She models how to be part of a diverse community that not only accepts but celebrates everyone.
Katie’s Day With Grandma by Liesbet Slegers is a simple story about the things little ones do with their grandparents. Make pancakes, go to the store, bead a necklace… it’s not groundbreaking but I bet a lot of your students will see themselves and their grandmother’s in this story.
A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts is all about an intergenerational family immigrating from Korea to West Virginia and the struggles that come with immigration. It particularly tells the story of how a grandmother goes from being a confident and respected teacher to staying at home and struggling with those changes. Throughout you can see the love through the struggles and the illustrations by Hyewon Yum make sure of that. In time though they all find their way, learn to communicate and find confidence again.
Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki has been on my shelf for years. I really like this book; the message is fantastic! Suki loves her Kimono; she doesn’t care that her sisters think it’s not cool to wear it to school; her grandma gave it to her, and she likes it. I like that not only does she have confidence in herself, but some of that confidence comes from her Obachan having given it to her. She’s not 100% sure, but that’s what being brave is, doing something even if you aren’t 100% confident. Recognizing those times when we are putting up a brave face even if inside we aren’t so sure. Being yourself is hard, and the author connects to that while still creating a lovely strong heroine with ties to her grandmother.