Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Grandparents’ Day may be in September, but a new crop of picture books is here to help us celebrate grandmas and grandpas and nanas and paw-paws year-round. That’s only fitting, because there are more grandparents today than ever before, according to The Census Bureau.

And the special ways they love, teach and relate to their children’s children is proven fodder for vivid, powerful storytelling. Look no further than these three titles I discovered at the Texas Book Festival. May they remind us of our elders’ wisdom, wit and care, as well as the role we can play in fostering space for those irreplaceable bonds to bloom.

Grandma’s Purse

by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Dedicated to the author’s foremothers, Gullah Geechee people from the sea islands of South Carolina “who carried history in their pocketbooks,” this story mines the endless depths of a grandmother’s purse to reveal layer upon layer of whimsy and joy. “This coin purse holds my coins, of course, but it also holds memories,” Grandma says of one of its many treasures. “Your grandfather brought it back from Japan for me. So when I do something small like put away change, I do something big and think of him, too.” The curious little girl relishes every discovery, from a compact mirror to lipstick, perfume and earrings. Ultimately, she finds a gift for herself–a little purse just like Grandma’s.


All Around Us

by Xelena Gonzalez, illustrated by Adrian M. Garcia

Created by childhood friends who grew up to become a journalist and artist, respectively, this vividly illustrated picture book evokes the beauty and mystery of everyday life. It features a young girl and her grandfather exploring their San Antonio neighborhood and discussing the interconnectedness of it all. Life is not a line, the story suggests, but a series of circles connecting the seen and unseen, the rainbow and the earth, the stems and the seeds, the living and the ancestors. The vibrant strokes and saturated color of the digitally created images within this Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book help children see themselves as part of the greater cycle of life.


Drawn Together

by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

This stunner features dueling illustration styles in a moving exploration of a grandfather and a grandson’s struggle to bridge linguistic, cultural and generational divides. When mom drops the boy off at his grandfather’s house, they greet one another with a bow before settling into uncomfortable silence. It’s only when the boy takes out his markers and starts drawing that a spark of connection emerges. Grandpa draws too. His elegant pen and ink sketches of elaborate wizards and dragons stand alongside the boy’s more colorful, cartoonish strokes, together building “a new world that even words can’t describe.” At the end of the story, the pair remains speechless, only happily so, having created new art and forged a new relationship.


Authors or illustrators associated with each of these books took part in the Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars program. This hands-on program sends nationally recognized authors into Title I schools in Texas to deliver dynamic presentations and give kids autographed books to take home. Want to support the program or bring it to your school? Click here to learn more.