The experience of starting a new school where the challenges are aplenty is captured perfectly in this beautiful picture book.
Dressed in her yellow wellies and pink coat, Shu Lin is not like the other children at her new school. At playtime she stands alone on the playground, watching the others play. At lunchtime she eats strange food from brightly coloured boxes by herself. It isn’t easy being the new kid in class. But when her grandfather comes to school to share his paintings, everything changes…
Settling in at a new school is never easy but it becomes much more challenging when language is a barrier and unfamiliar culture and customs cause a stir amongst classmates. Naturally, the children in Shu Lin’s class are curious about their new classmate; straight-talking and outspoken Barney questioning why she doesn’t play with the others and how she could possibly eat a lunch that he has never seen the likes of before.
One class member does understand though, narrator Dylan gently recalls his first day at school and how he struggled to feel at home at the start. When Grandpa shares his art with the class, bridges are formed, boundaries tumble and young people are connected. No words are needed, for the power of art is enough as drawings and paintings reveal their own stories.
And what gorgeous art it is. Yu Rong’s emotion-filled artwork captures so many moments perfectly and easily place the reader into Shu Lin’s nervous shoes. Look closer and you are richly rewarded with so many subtle details to spot: Shu Lin holding chopsticks; a panda that repeatedly appears; the teacher holding a red fan; the individuality of the class members portrayed through hair styles, the things they hold whilst sitting on the carpet and their lunchboxes at lunchtime. As for the ‘STUNNING double-gatefold spread’ of a Chinese scene…wonderful.
Matt Goodfellow’s gentle words tell a story that will resonate with many children and provides an important window into the experience of others for those that have never had difficulty fitting in. With themes of empathy, inclusivity and cultural understanding running throughout and shining as brightly as a Chinese lantern, Shu Lin’s Grandpa is an important book to have on the shelves.
Recommended for 4+.