Often when children’s books are inspired by actual experiences with relatives, those personal experiences don’t fully translate to a wider audience. Happily, Joey Visits Grandpa, a picture book by Patricia Nichvolodoff, avoids falling into that trap, delivering a charming story that many readers will relate to.
The story begins with Joey and his grandfather feeding fish in the tank at Grandpa’s house. When they’re done, they want to read a story together, but can’t because Grandpa’s glasses are missing. Joey finds them in the tank and dries them off, and thus begins a series of similar events: Grandpa drops his glasses in the pancake mix, Grandpa misplaces his glasses in a grocery bag, Grandpa loses his glasses in the freezer while looking for ice cream; each time, Joey finds them. Finally, Joey decides to solve the problem by tying some string around Grandpa’s glasses. His plan works, but in the final illustration, Grandpa has now left his boots behind at the dock.
Joey Visits Grandpa succeeds because of its perfect blend of simple, well-written text and humorous (if somewhat generic) illustrations that provide an extra dimension to the story. On every illustrated page, Grandpa’s glasses are visible, whether on his head (in a precarious state, ready to fall) or hidden among the many details on the page: in the fish tank, grocery bag, or freezer, for example. An unnamed dog, presumably Grandpa’s, also appears in every picture, taking advantage of spilled food or just observing events as they unfold.
The story is delivered with a comfortable rhythm that quickly becomes familiar, even as the situations vary: every time Joey finds Grandpa’s glasses, Grandpa utters a suitably grandfatherly expression, like: “Well, what do you know!”; “Well, get a load of that!”; or “Well, you don’t say!” The result is a book that rings true and is humorous and sweet, capturing the shifting balance of youth and experience between grandchild and grandparent.
Also available as an audiobook.