Just Like Grandpa Jazz

Just Like Grandpa Jazz
Tarah L. Gear and Mirna Imamovic
Owlet Press

Frank, the boy narrator, and his Grandpa Jazz – (Jasodhra as we later learn) are lovers of stories – reading them and telling them, though it’s Grandpa Jazz who is storyteller extraordinaire whether his tales are made up or not.

Now Grandpa is going to visit Mauritius, the island of his birth and youth, and he asks Frank to help him pack his suitcase. As they do so, Frank discovers a small holey rock in the case and that results in a story from Grandpa about how he fell into a volcano crater as a boy.

A stethoscope in a pocket of the case leads to a tale about a skull, and a bar of soap that’s going into the suitcase reminds Grandpa that his great grandmother used to wash the family’s clothes with soap in a river.

With the packing almost finished Frank spies a shirt with a badge with the word Jazz on it. Grandpa relates the story of how Her Majesty the Queen invited him to work for the NHS in the UK and how on the ship to England, people with white skin were separated from those with a different skin colour. This saddens Frank when he realises that had they both been travelling, due to racist attitudes they would have been kept apart – two people with so much in common whom the world viewed as being different.

Finally, with the packing completed, it’s off to the airport; but there’s still time for one more of Grandpa’s tales on the way. When they arrive at the airport, there’s a wonderful surprise in store for Frank …

With a lovely final twist, debut author Tarah L Gear’s wonderfully warm tale, vibrantly illustrated with gentle humour, by Mirna Imamović, (debuting as picture book illustrator) demonstrates and celebrates the intergenerational love between two terrific characters, Grandpa Jazz and Frank. It also shows the significant role passing down stories between generations can play in keeping alive that important sense of family history and heritage. It also reflects the racist attitudes at the time of Windrush, some of which sadly remain today. However, the book includes backmatter about heritage and elements of anti-racism that would be helpful in classroom and home discussions around these topics. An important book to share and talk about with children in the home or a school setting.

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