Grandmother’s Tin Box is a short and yet poignant journey across the memories of a woman, Judy, who had been the granddaughter of a wonderful woman whom she remembers with gentle and melancholic words in this book. As one flips the pages, one is faced with a simultaneously detailed and simple account of the memories of a child, now an adult, in the face of the passing time. Indeed, this book is a tribute to Judy’s grandmother, and implicitly a way to immortalize the beauty she radiated through the means of writing, thus fixing her image on the pages with words and, no less, beautiful drawings in watercolours.
The framed narrative is what works best in this work and what I personally liked a lot about it is that it is a story within other stories, which makes everything engaging and as if springing directly from the page one has just read and left behind. There is also a perfect adherence to the conventions of fairy-tale which are almost a constant in children’s books, by this I refer to the insertion of the magical object which drives the entire plot of the story: the tin box. This generates wonder and amazement in Judy, and it almost elevates the grandmother to the divine-like status of a fairy godmother. This is extremely fitting because the whole point of the story is that, for Judy, her grandmother was not simply a relative, but a superwoman, a gem among stones, therefore this is an implicit reference to why she is dedicating her this book.
Contrarily to what one may think of encountering in a children’s book, the plot is not banal and it is full of surprises and further connotations. The language, despite its simplicity which is well suited for young readers, is captivating and provocatively coloured of metaphors and images, aided by the stunning illustrations that accompany the words. I liked that the pictures are on the side of the text and I believe it helps to create a visual correspondence between text and depicted scene. The layout is impeccable and immediately accessible, I also truly loved the concept of the story, its climax and its inevitable ending.
The only thing that, in my opinion, is a bit out of tune is the slightly indoctrinating tone that can be found at times under the coat of sweetness and tenderness. For instance, I am referring to the mention of God and prayers. I imagine the book is rather autobiographic, hence this is not necessarily a flaw. Another thing that struck me was that there is a mention of class difference and social strata and I immediately thought: why is this present in a book made for children, which usually sugarcoat these things leaning towards happy resolutions at all costs? Nevertheless, this too can be contextualised in the broader bitter-sweet tone of the book, which is ultimately not a fairy-tale, but a real-life story of growth and the cycle of life.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I finished it in the blink of an eye, it is branded as a children’s book however I would not recommend it to very young children as its theme is profound and has a deeper layer of meaning relating to one’s existence, the passing of time and the different seasons in one’s life, which can better be grasped by older children.
I am in the senior sophister year of my BA in English Literature and Classics, writing a thesis on John Keats’ poetry and 19th-century Victorian literature. I majored in English and I am specialized in reviewing children's books and classics. Tips for my work are greatly appreciated!