I chose this book out of four options to read during a teaching workshop today because it is about Alzheimer’s disease, which is probably my greatest fear. I finished an initial read unimpressed and dissatisfied with the ending. However, after rereading and studying the images more closely, many new elements presented themselves that made Grandpa Green a very clever and moving piece of literature.
That said, I’m not sure children will learn much about Alzheimer’s disease from this book, and the young ones, especially, won’t think about perspective and the slippery nature of memory. So, while I’m giving it four stars, I probably will not rush out and buy a copy to read to my kids.
I saw the topiary garden as a metaphor for Great-Grandpa’s memories, many of which come to the young child telling the story not through the great-grandfather himself, but through his children and grandchildren. This idea was driven home, I think, on the facing pages that picture the great-grandson among many topiary copies of himself, and again on the very last page where he has taken up the art of topiary and is make a living sculpture of his great-grandfather.
Also, fertility gods are typically represented as green. The great-grandfather is never named here; the title Grandpa Green could indicate his surname is Green, or it could be an indication of the succeeding generations he has produced. The latter, I think, supports my idea of family being where the big memories live; the narrative says the garden takes care of those big things great-grandpa forgets, so I think this idea has support.