“Don’t Call Me Grandma” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Growing up with two fiesty grandmothers myself, I was elated to see the great-grandmother in Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s newest picture book portrayed with complexity and compassion. Great-grandmother Nell’s great-granddaughter is simultaneously scared and fascinated by the prickly matriarch. Despite being subject to stern reprimands and even an ear pulling, the great-granddaughter is drawn to her 96 year old great-grandmother and finds ways to be close to her. When asked why Great-grandmother Nell drinks her yucky tasting, amber colored “heart medicine”, she shares that she suffers from a broken heart. Further in the story, it is revealed that Great-grandmother’s heart was first broken during childhood when a one-time friend abruptly refused to play with her because of the color of her skin. Told from the perspective of the great-granddaughter, Nelson perfectly captures the child’s innocent yet astute observations. The simple prose is coupled with rich illustrations that provide clues to Great-grandmother Nell’s history. The result is a sophisticated story with more depth than most picture books offer.  “Don’t Call Me Grandma” is a tender reminder that people are complicated – including great-grandmothers.

Don't Call Me Grandma

A granddaughter recounts the reasons why her grandmother is hard to love–and why she loves her anyway.