Cover of Ojiichan’s Gift

Ojiichan’s Gift

By Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Genevieve Simms. Kids Can Press, 2019. 30 pages, $18.99.
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Sheri Gaetz

What better gift could a grandfather give than that of love, time and beauty? Ojiichan’s Gift is a touching story of intergenerational relationships and love. When Mayumi was born, her Ojiichan, which means grandpa, gave her the gift of a traditional Japanese garden. Each summer, when Mayumi and her family returned to Japan for a visit, Ojiichan would teach her the beauty and art of a traditional Japanese garden.

During these months Mayumi loved to spend time with Ojiichan in the tranquility and peace of the garden. Each year as she grew, Mayumi learned the respect, passion and care needed to take care of her beautiful garden. Spending hours with her Ojiichan tending to the garden, enjoying the peace within it, and sharing onigiri bento gave both grandpa and granddaughter the gift of friendship. Mayumi often took out the mementos she kept in her bento box when missing her Ojiichan and garden in between her summer visits. Unfortunately, one summer Mayumi faced the hard truth that Ojiichan could no longer live in his house. She deals with a range of emotions as she comes to terms with the fact that they will no longer have their special garden.

Chieri Uegaki introduces the audience to the special relationship between granddaughter and grandfather. The joy of learning and passing on cultural traditions to the next generation is the focus of this beautifully illustrated book. The main character learns the value of her relationship with her Ojiichan and the love they will always share by having their special garden.

This picture book is a great resource for highlighting the Grade 2 Social Studies curriculum. Students delve into learning about one’s family and heritage. Another curriculum connection is student well-being and the ability to learn tools to self-regulate their emotions. The main character, Mayumi, struggles with her emotions as she realizes that the mutual love she and her grandpa share for their garden must come to an end. Change is difficult, especially for children. The book shows a healthy example of acknowledging and working through negative emotions. Readers are shown how to find a silver lining in any situation by working through feelings and, sometimes, thinking outside the bento box.

Sheri Gaetz is a member of the Greater Essex Teacher Local.