“Authentic and full of connections that will stir readers' soul.”
Egneus’ versatile illustrations immediately reveal the cluttered chaos of real life both in style and in details throughout the book—the cacophony of bottles, tools and hanging plants in the garden shed, or toys strewn pell-mell across Henry’s floor. While the story is limited to three characters (Grandpa, Henry and Mom), their depth, with a level of complexity one cannot quite unravel, makes them irresistible and real. From the “six and a half minutes” of time Henry gives Grandpa, to their wildly different top three sandwich choices indicative of their generations (chocolate spread versus beetroot), to the fact that this is a family whose members each have their own top three jellyfish, these quirky and delightfully divergent details create a deep, empathetic connection between readers and the characters, as well as a sense of the connection characters share with each other. A heartwarming lesson can be found in Henry and Grandpa’s relationship blooming not when Henry is asking for things for himself but when he asks Grandpa a question, offers up a part of himself (his own top three sandwiches), then listens and—perhaps most importantly—acts, making Grandpa his top three sandwiches. Also notable is the individuality of Henry and Grandpa’s top threes: they never overlap, showing that from the beginning each person is totally secure of being himself around the other. When the page turns to reveal Grandpa’s “top three grannies,” readers’ hearts will be tenderly touched to learn alongside Henry the answer to his very first question: “Why’s Grandpa always gardening?”
A young boy’s original game coaxes a grieving grandpa to reconnect with the world in a touching intergenerational story of love and resilience. Henry loves talking with Grandpa, but Grandpa has stopped listening. Mom says to just give him time. But Henry wants to talk to Grandpa now. So Henry tries his favorite game: Top Threes. And something amazing happens: Grandpa starts talking again. Out of a tale of favorite sandwiches and zoo animals, outings and trains, emerges a moving story about love, loss, and the wonder of grannies and grandpas.
Although you might not guess it from the cover, the illustrations in this book are quite wonderful! There is a lot to look at on each page and it all relates beautifully to what is happening in the story. The illustrations also help to convey how busy and exuberant the little boy is, especially compared with the grandpa, whose posture subtly lifts, along with his grief as the story progresses.
I appreciate that while this is a book about dealing with death and grief, it isn’t sappy or even especially sad. It is a beautiful, straight-forward look at the ways we remember people we have lost and how sharing those memories with others helps to keep them alive.