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The Grandparents Book Club: What’s Not To Like?

By May 30, 2018May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

This is Jane Isay.

Jane Isay is a book editor. Editors are not famous. They work behind the scenes with authors like Rachel Simmons who wrote the ground breaking Odd Girl Out:The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and Buzz Bissinger on Friday Night Lights.

Cover of Odd Girl Out, revised edition. Cover photograph is of an adolescent girl with curly brown hair pulled back low on her neck sitting in profile on a skateboard in blue jeans and a green t-shirt.

Jane is also an author. 

Book Cover WALKING ON EGGSHELLS. Image: A photo of a straw bird nest with two broken halves of an empty white eggshell. Judith Viorst quote “Read It and Learn”

Her books explore family relationships. In Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents. Jane Isay spoke with scores of Americans about complicated generational dynamics. “I wanted to get a fix on those decades between the time the kids leave home and the time when we really need their help.” 

Liesl Schillinger in The New York Times review said that that Walking on Eggshells was “a quietly groundbreaking exploration of the ties between adult children and their parents”

Jane Isay’s most recent publication is 

Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today

Cover: Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today. Image: Graphic bold colored silloeuttes of adults playing and talking with children.

Kirkus Reviews says,  “For anyone soon to become a grandparent, this practical book will answer many questions about what to do when the baby arrives; for current grandparents, it confirms what they know: being a grandparent is, for the most part, awesome. Research and individual stories explain the special position of grandparents in a child’s life.”

And that, my friends brings me to the Grandparents (and Special Friends) Book Club

Jane Isay was inspired by her dear friend and peer in life, Tina Weiner. 

Tina’s daughter Leigh Marchant was reading Wonder during the same time as Tina’s grandson, Quinn. 

Sidebar: Wonder

Auggie Pullman is a kid who has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies is starting school for the very first time. No one thinks that a kid who looks this different from everyone else is going to have an easy time in 5th grade.  R.J. Palacio tells this story from various points-of-view as we get to know Auggie and his classmates during a single school year.

Further resources include  

Back to the Point of this Blog: Grandparents

When Quinn was eight years old, he said to his grandmother, Tina. “Mimi, you will love this book and you can join book club.”

And she did. And the three generations had a lot to talk about.  Tina said in a phone interview with me on Wednesday that having his grandmother reading the same book   “makes Quinn realize that we are all reading.”

She said, “I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading Wonder. When I read it, I thought about what I wanted to talk Quinn about it.  I was looking forward to a conversation about the characters’  different perspectives. While reading I was also thinking about Quinn’s point of view and hearing what he thought of the book. I think he even read it again after I read it.”

This was the beginning of their grandparent book club. This grandparent was encouraging reading without being didactic. Its not an assignment. Its an enjoyment. The reading discussion were a special family time. This can also be long-distance family time. Skyping or Face-timing the book conversations are a great way to keep in touch and make memories that cement relationships. Ask open ended questions. Answer them yourself.

“What character did you want as a friend? Why”

” What are the attributes of a good friend?”

“What there anything in the book that surprised you?”

These conversations show respect for children’s and young adult’s opinions and critical thinking skills.

This can also be three generation time. There was Quinn, Quinn’s mom, and Quinn’s grandmother all engaged in an experiential learning time. 

Back To Jane Isay

(Full Disclosure: Jane Isay is the grandparent of two children who go to Bank Street School for Children. I was their librarian.)

Jane said, “Lisa, wouldn’t it be great to encourage grandparents to engage with their grandchildren through reading books?”

“Lisa, don’t you think this would be the perfect moment for two generations to learn together?”

“Lisa, I believe that we weave our souls together, when we learn together.”

“Lisa, Could you pick books for the Grandparent’s Book Club?”

I said, “Yes.” But in my mind there was a big but. There can be no list because each family contains the a multitude of personalities and interests. It would appall me, if any list was used as “required” reading. 

Librarians don’t just push a book into someone hand. They conduct a reference interview.

“What was the last book that you couldn’t put down?”

“Who are the authors that you love?”

“If you loved Harry Potter, you might enjoy Diana Winn Jones.”

(Booksellers do this too but they don’t have a name for it)

That said- here are a few titles that would make great inter-generational read.

A Handful of Books for Sharing

by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee
(Hyperion Books for Children) For 7 and up.

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
(Candlewick) For 5 and up

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart
Vera B. Williams
(Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins Publishers) For 8 and up

Because of Winn Dixie
Kate Di Camillo
(Candlewick) For 8 and up

Meet Danitra Brown
Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
(HarperCollins) For 8 and up

Watson’s Go To BirminghamAnd 
Christopher Paul Curtis
(Knopf) For 9 and up

Project Mulberry
Linda Sue Park
(Clarion) For 8 and up

In the Steps of Crazy Horse
Joseph Marshall III
(Amulet) For 8 and up


with illustrations by Jim Yellowhawk, is coming out in November from Amulet Books

Dear Mr. Henshaw
Beverly Cleary
(HarperCollins) For 8 and up


The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
(Houghton Mifflin) For 9 and up

No Talking
Andrew Clements
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers) For 8 and up

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot.
by Sy Montgomery, illustrated by Nic Bishop
(Houghton Mifflin) For 7 and up


by Ruth Behar. Published
(Nancy Paulsen Books) For 9 and up, 

 And it is the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter with new covers by Brian Selznik.


Where to look for great book recommendations.

American Library Association Notable Books

Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)

Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens

What about Picture Books?

To come soonish.  

















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