“This delightful story focused on an inter-generational relationship engenders creativity and helping others in a masterfully-clever execution.”
The story begins with the opening endpapers as Grandpa starts to pull into the driveway with his pick-up truck, balloons filling the cab and a bow-bedecked red toolbox riding in the bed. It doesn’t end until the final endpapers, where readers can observe the physical transformation of the boy’s backyard (and the neighborhood!) mirroring the transformation of the little boy’s attitude towards the gift and his grandpa. Although the little boy, who remains nameless throughout the story, hopes for a doll-house for his birthday (a challenge of gender stereotypes), he grudgingly practices good manners (with a few eye-rolls) as he gives the reader instructions on the appropriate way to behave—“be patient,” “compliment Grandpa,” ”give him a hug,” etc. He soon discovers, however, that the toolbox sparks creativity and empowers him not only to create the world’s most magnificent dollhouse that will have both boys and girls clamoring to get a toolbox and build one of their own, but also to help his neighbors, create a community and spend quality time learning with his grandpa, whose teaching style is exemplary and evident throughout the illustrations (e.g. the host of wonky birdhouses built before the final one is complete). With a witty and playful tone, the masterful storytelling allows space for a significant portion of the story to be told through the illustrations. The illustrations themselves are beautiful, executed in bold colors and jam-packed with clever details—the little boys’ initials appear on the toolbox above the grandpa’s, Meyer and Lemon streets crossing on the front endpapers referencing an earlier book by the same creative team, and blueprints for the birdhouse, to name just a few.
In this delightful story, by the same author who wrote When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, a boy is disappointed with his grandfather’s gift—until he learns he can use it to build exactly what he wanted with his own two hands, and a little help from grandpa, of course!
You asked for a special house for your dolls; but instead Grandpa gives you a toolbox! What do you do? Launching it into outer space is a bad idea. So is feeding it to a T. rex! Instead, be patient, pay attention, and you might find that you’re pretty handy. And just maybe, with grandpa’s help, you’ll get that dollhouse after all. This clever story celebrates kindness, hard work, and community, as well as variety in gender expression: the male main character proudly engages in activities that might be considered typically girl (playing with dolls) and typically boy (building with tools).
The little boy in the story was hoping for one thing for his birthday, but he got something else. What can you learn about how to react when you receive something you aren’t initially excited about?
At the beginning of the book, before the story begins, there’s an author’s note detailing her husband’s diagnosis with cancer. To raise awareness for cancer patients, a gray ribbon and a gold ribbon have been included in the illustrations. Can you find them?
Take a close look at the page where the Grandpa and little boy are building the birdhouse. On the back workbench, there are lots of different birdhouses that look like they didn’t quite work out. Can you think of a time when you had to fail in order to learn and ended up with something awesome?
Jamie L. B. Deenihan is a teacher and member of SCBWI and the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. Her first picture book was When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree. She lives in Suffield, CT, with her family. Visit her online at jamiedeenihan.com and on Twitter @jlbdeenihan.
Lorraine Rocha studied illustration and animation and worked at Lucasfilm’s VFX and animation studio Industrial Light & Magic, contributing to such films as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Ironman. She is the illustrator of Zebra on the Go by Jill Nogales. Lorraine lives with her family in San Leandro, CA.
For my dad, who has given me the tools to take on any challenge, and Ricky, Nathan, and Alex, who I love building a live with—I love you more.
For Grandpa Ed and Grandpa Rafa