Quill and Quire

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Grandpa’s Girls

by Nicola I. Campbell; Kim LaFave, illus.

Grandpa’s Girls follows a group of four cheerful Interior Salish cousins let loose on their grandfather’s sprawling B.C. farm. The book is not a traditional narrative so much as a play-by-play of a random, rambling summer afternoon.

At the outset, the focus is on Grandpa and his many roles (elder, businessman, Second World War veteran), but then he becomes a background character, popping up on occasion to tinker with the tractor or call out safety advice as the girls dash around, feeding the horse one minute and storming the candy jar the next.

B.C. author Nicola I. Campbell, who identifies as Interior Salish and Métis, is the author of two previous books, Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe, both illustrated by Kim LaFave. The writer-illustrator partnership continues to work well in Grandpa’s Girls; LaFave’s spare and wispy artwork is well-suited to the carefree wanderings of the characters.

The book is a vicarious pleasure for anyone who ever wished they’d once had a hay loft to swing from, a pig to tease, or a cobwebby root cellar to explore. Beyond that, it is an honest look at how kids sometimes need to experience the past in the context of the present to really understand it. Though the four characters don’t go looking for their family history, they stumble across its tangible proofs: a log building, a black-and-white photo, and a dusty jar of canned cherries. Grandpa’s farm is their fortuitous connection to all the history that would otherwise be erased.