Review: Gracie Brings Back Bubbe's Smile
Gracie Brings Back Bubbe's Smile
by Jane Sutton, illustrated by Debby Rahmalia
Albert Whitman, 2022
When her beloved Zayde passes away, Gracie is determined to replace Bubbe’s sadness with laughter during her grandmother’s long visit. Author Jane Sutton’s latest addition to her social and emotional learning collection teaches young readers how death affects the adults in their lives, and how children have the power to bring joy to their loved ones.
Illustrator Debby Rahmalia draws colorful real-life pictures of Gracie and Bubbe, and flashbacks to a time spent with Zayde when he taught Gracie about rocket ships and volcanos. Zayde is drawn with grey hair and an orange cap. Bubbe appears much younger than her husband, but the smile on her face shows the love between them.
Bubbe is too sad for yoga or playing the guitar, but when Gracie asks “Will you teach me Yiddish words?” Gracie thinks she sees a smile. The reader is introduced to ‘nosh’ which means eat a snack and ‘A gute nakht, Bubala’ which translates to ‘good night, little grandmother,' an endearment akin to 'sweetie.' Soon Bubbe’s spirit is lifted and she’s waiting for Gracie at the door with cookies. Rahmalia illustrates Gracie on the sidewalk drawing when she hands Bubbe a piece of orange chalk, saying “Orange was Zayde’s favorite color.” With each page turn, the reader sees the beautiful bond between Bubala and Bubbe. You can see Gracie loves learning the Yiddish words spoken by Jews for a thousand years.
A picture book with Yiddish words is a definite candidate for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. This sweet story introduces new words to young readers and gives parents a chance to tell their own stories about the phrases from their childhoods. The story ends with Bubbe cuddling Gracie and saying "I am laughing, Bubala. You know why? Because you give me naches. That means 'joy.'" This last line beautifully ties in the Yiddish words with the message of love during a time of grief.
The Author’s Note explains to readers the awesome, expressive language that you can find in books, movies, and TV shows. It also breaks down the Yiddish word with ‘meaning in English.’ I could hear my own grandparents’ voices in reading ‘how to say it.’ This empathetic intergenerational story should be read over and over to remind readers that moments of joy can still be found even when experiencing loss. It tugs on the heart with both love and humor and reminds us that Yiddish words have a wonderful way of bringing laughter to people from all backgrounds.
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