Sunday, June 28, 2009
Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola is a picture book for preschoolers that deals with death in a gentle and age appropriate way. Recommended for young children who are dealing with the death of a grandparent or other family member, it's also a good book to have on hand when children start asking questions about death.
Little Tomie goes to his grandparent's house every Sunday. There he visits his grandmother who is usually downstairs in the kitchen (Nana Downstairs), as well as his great-grandmother who is upstairs in bed (Nana Upstairs). The time he spends with Nana Upstairs is precious. They share mints and she tells him stories about the "Little People" (She's Irish).
One day, Tomie is told that Nana Upstairs has died. He asks "what's died?" His mother explains that "Died means that Nana Upstairs won't be here anymore...Except in your memory." Tomie is naturally very upset, especially when he sees the empty bed. Later on he sees a falling star in the sky, and believes it's Nana Upstairs sending him a kiss.
The pictures depict a wonderful family life for little Tomie and his two Nanas. Small details such as combing out Nana Upstairs' beautiful white hair, and Nana Downstairs twisting her own into a bun are heartwarming and lovingly drawn. Even when he hears the news of Nana Upstairs, you know that Tomie is surrounded by a loving family who will help him deal with his grief.
This was a much read book in our house when my children were young. In the course of two years, they lost both a grandmother and a grandfather, and Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs gave them much comfort. I highly recommend it.