On the blog this week, Jackie Friedman Mighdoll reviews The Encyclopedia of Grannies by Eric Veillé, translated from French by Daniel Hahn (Gecko Press, 2019).
The two grandmothers in our family fit some of the grandmotherly stereotypes – they bake, they hug, and they love phone calls from grandchildren. On the other hand, you might not have guessed that one is a professional driver and the other directs a drama troupe. There’s a wide range of grandmas out there.
Eric Veillé’s Encyclopedia of Grannies, translated by Daniel Hahn, is a humorous and loving celebration of grandmothers. The book acknowledges some of the commonalities (“if you send your granny a card, you’ll make her day…”) And with distinctive humor and wit, it bashes away at stereotypes – there’s a full page entitled “Flexibility” showing a granny doing handstands, squats, and splits.
While the book is called an encyclopedia, this is a fun one to read. One page, for example, catalogs different types of more-or-less realistic grannies – young grannies, city grannies, Australian grannies, etc. And another catalogs fantastical things grandmas knit – camel-hump covers, wigs for snowmen, goats’ coats. Some pages tell a single story or ask a single question. My favorite of these is the page “Creases – why do grannies have creases?” (Why do I have creases, for that matter!)
The cartoon illustrations add to the humor. The 87-year old granny winks at the reader. There’s a whole page of weird and wacky hairstyles. And another page of pictures of the things you might find in granny’s bed including cauliflower smells and possibly even a grandpa.
My one big wish was that the book had included some ethnic diversity. These grannies are dramatically different from one another, but they are all white-skinned. Our larger community of grannies isn’t reflected here.
When you give this book to a child, you might tuck a sheet of paper in the back so they can draw their own granny. Oma, Nanna, Grandma, Mima – whatever she’s called in your house-might want to see that, too.
Encyclopedia of Grannies
by Éric Veillé, translated from French [France] by Daniel Hahn
Gecko Press (look inside)
Original French version: L’encyclopedie des mamies, published by Actes Suds