Grandpa and the Kingfisher is a gentle story depicting the close relationship between a grandparent and child linking it to the life cycle, the seasons and the natural world.
Anna Wilson’s text follows grandpa and child over the course of a year as they share together the wonders of their local river. The two of them, accompanied by their dog, watch kingfishers flying over the water and diving for fish and as the days pass another kingfisher joins the first. As spring turns to summer and autumn to winter, the kingfishers raise a family, while Grandpa teaches his grandchild about the power of nature and the circle of life. As the child asks questions Grandpa responds with answers about how the kingfishers live, building their nest, feeding their young and so on before explaining that when they are four days old the young chicks will be ready to fly off. Through these thoughtfully expressed exchanges Anna Wilson introduces the reader to the concept of the circle of life as grandpa reminds his grandchild that one day they too will be grown up. Although he says, no one lives forever and explains that the grown-up birds will die and the chicks live on the reassures the child that, ‘Nature goes on like this. Nature goes on forever’.
The lovely watercolour illustrations by Sarah Massini convey both the closeness of adult and child and the beauty of the nature surrounding them with the gradual changes in the palette used as the seasons change working extremely effectively. There are little hints in both text and illustration to the gradual slowing down of grandpa too and when spring arrives the following year the child witnesses the arrival of the last year’s young kingfisher now grown without grandpa by their side. There is reassurance in the continuity with the child using grandpa’s binoculars and wearing his hat and watching the birds repeating last year’s events saying, “It’s just like grandpa told me.”
There are many themes within this book that can be explored in a class setting. The seasonal changes, the life cycle and the natural world are conveyed in a suitable manner for KS1 and the author has used rich language that invites reading aloud or being used as a writing prompt. The story could also be used to explore feelings about life, loss and death either in class discussion or perhaps to support an individual child within bereavement counselling.
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