Granny Left Me a Rocket Ship, by TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award–winning author Heather Smith, is a picture book gem that sensitively explores a child’s journey through loss.
With clear poetic economy, the young narrator explains, “When Granny died, there was a hole in our family. Remembering her helped us fill it.”
While boxing up Granny’s belongings, the bereaved family tells stories, looks at photographs, and remembers their loved one “by the things she left behind.” A locket, record collection, and microscope are touchstones for healing saddened hearts, and the personal effects hold many memories and experiences. The main character itemizes the numerous treasures left to them, from a tent, to a sea monster, to a rocket ship.
In Ashley Barron’s textured cut-paper collage, watercolour, and pencil crayon illustrations, knick-knacks and bric-a-brac that make up the familiar fabric of the everyday are on display, including an owl-shaped lamp, a galloping horse figurine, and a painting of a scenic mountain view. A full-of-life family living room is the place of dreamy reminiscences, starting with grandmother and child sitting side by side reading books underneath a tent fashioned out of patterned blankets and sofa cushions. The warm, imaginative, almost wordless scenes that follow highlight how play can be an important way to process grief.
As Granny and the little one climb an ice-cream mountain and plant a cherry-on-top flagpole, relax by a campfire and roast marshmallows on a knight’s sword, and soar past an owl on a moonlit flying broomstick ride, the real and the surreal blend effortlessly together. Observant readers will spot subtle connecting details on every page, including Granny’s blue cane that is at the heart of all the adventures.
At the end of the day, the child’s true inheritance, an object lesson in love, is revealed: “When Granny died, she left me a world of adventure … that I can take with me wherever I go.”
This reassuring approach to loss and healing offers an ideal conversation starter about keeping memories alive and the everlasting connections with those we love.