When I Found Grandma by Saumiya Balasubramaniam
Illus. Qin Leng . Groundwood Books, 2019.
Hardcover Picture book, 32 pages.
Maya envies how Kim’s grandma picks her up every day from school, while she only knows her grandma from postcards. But her grandma’s surprise visit isn’t what she expected. Her grandma wears fancy clothes, is loud, cooks strange food, and calls her Mayalakshmi instead of Maya. But as her grandma tries to accommodate her American granddaughter, Maya realizes how important her difference is after she is lost from her family in a crowd. The cultural difference her grandmother comes to represent is the thing that calls her home: it’s how she finds her grandmother, and some pretty marvelous aspects of her own self. She becomes less embarrassed, and the circle of the story is complete as classmate Isabella’s own Nonna comes to visit.
When I Found Grandma is a sweet story of culture, distance, and discovery. It’s a lovely grandparent story that translates across cultures and households. Maya is youthful, and not bratty. Grandma is flexible, not pitiable. Balasubramaniam is matter-of-fact in her storytelling of a child adjusting to her foreign grandma’s presence…and vice versa. I may have teared-up at the next to last page.
Leng’s illustrations are fluid and expressive; gentle and colorful. Leng provides an appealing journey in accompaniment to the text as we navigate the reality and emotions of Maya and her family. The gestures and details in the compositions are perfectly pitched.
When I Found Grandma is a treasure. I highly recommend it for a rich cultural and intergenerational experience.
Qin Leng is a designer and illustrator known for her illustrations of children books. She graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and has received many awards for her animated short films and artwork. Throughout her career, Qin has illustrated picture books, magazines and book covers with publishers around the world. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and received the APALA Award for best picture book. She lives in Toronto, with her husband and her son.
Saumiya Balasubramaniam has a Masters in Computer Science and a passion for writing. She received the prestigious Bram and Bluma Appel Scholarship from the Humber School of Creative Writing. The manuscript for When I Found Grandma, her debut picture book, was a finalist in the children’s writing competition held by CANSCAIP (Canadian Society for Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Publishers) and TWUC (The Writers’ Union of Canada). She has also written essays for the Times of India and the Globe and Mail. Saumiya lives with her family in Toronto.