Benjamin Fox’s lovely and poignant book The Great and the Grand lends itself well to bedtime readings. Simple language and Elizabeth Robbins’ softly textured, luminous illustrations depict the importance of extended family in a quiet yet meaningful way.
The story begins as dawn breaks over a peaceful valley on an “uncommonly good day.” We meet “The New” and “The Old,” one just waking, one preparing for visitors. The New is surrounded by things to touch; the Old is surrounded by “touching things.” Fox’s gentle repetitions and wordplays permeate the book, and we learn that the young mother is setting out on a long train ride to introduce her new baby to his great-grandfather.
Robbins has created a mesmerizing backdrop for Fox’s words. Each page is a painting, soft-edged and expressive, with the most vibrant image being of the baby splashing his toys about in a bright green tub. The grandfather is portrayed against more muted, serene backdrops, as if he is seeing life through the veil of his experience. And when the Old and the New finally meet, Fox writes, “They are the past and the future. They are family.”
Grandparents and parents may find themselves tearing up over this book, but children will enjoy the story and a chance to talk about their own grandparents. The Great and the Grand is a uniquely evocative book of beauty and substance.
Billie B. Little is the Founding Director of Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, a hands-on museum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.