When a young boy is scared to start school, he receives a much needed visit from his Big Papa, who takes him on an inspiring and instructive journey in his “time machine”: a pristine 1950s era antique car complete with whitewall tires. The boy and Big Papa travel to five important moments in Big Papa’s life—including the night he met his wife and the day the little boy’s mom left him as a baby with Big Papa—when Big Papa himself was scared. Big Papa beautifully describes how he responded to these moments with bravery: “[S]ometimes you gotta jump in an ocean of scared if you ever gonna dance with an angel,” and “Sometimes you gotta love the unexpected if you ever gonna find love at all.” Bernstrom masterfully weaves oral histories into an answer to a present day problem, and his skillful touch of Ebonics conveys character while making the story easy to read aloud. Evans, whose impressionistic illustrations are done in mixed and digital media, alkyd paint, and pen, beautifully depicts past and present simultaneously, with a pastel color scheme that seamlessly differentiates between the ethereal past and the concrete present. Both Bernstrom and Evans describe in touching endnotes their personal connection with the story, a connection that readers will notice in this inspiring, remarkable book.
The “Heartstrings” badge is awarded to books that provoke an exceptionally tender emotional response.
The “Heritage” badge is awarded to exceptional books celebrating personal heritage and family history.
Big Papa takes his grandson on a loving, heartfelt, and relatable journey through his past experiences to help his grandson acknowledge his feelings and inspire bravery. I love Big Papa's kind, authentic, and pure sharing with his grandson, as well as the example of how family history and family members can strengthen, share, and buoy up family members. Overall, a beautiful book full of history, tender feelings, love, and beautiful illustrations that are somehow soft and vibrant all at once.
This story was a great reminder of how helpful it is to tell stories to our children our own experiences of being brave. Taking time to talk with them is sometimes all that is needed to help them understand and handle their emotions.
Daniel Bernstrom is the author of two previous picture books for children, One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, and Gator, Gator, Gator!, illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon. Daniel and his wife and their children live in Minnesota. Learn more about him at www.lillylabs.com.
Shane W. Evans loves to dream. First he dreamed of opening his own art studio. He did that in 2007. Shane’s books include We March; Olu’s Dream; and Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, a 2012 Coretta Scott King Medalist. When he isn’t on the road, Shane dreams at home in Kansas City, MO. Visit him online at www.shaneevans.com.
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