When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox
Written by Jamie L.B. Deenihan
Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha
10 pages • Published 2020 (Union Square Kids)
Recommended Age Range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Publisher's Summary: You asked for a special house for your dolls; but instead Grandpa gives you a toolbox! What do you do? Launching it into outer space is a bad idea. So is feeding it to a T. rex! Instead, be patient, pay attention, and you might find that you’re pretty handy. And just maybe, with grandpa’s help, you’ll get that dollhouse after all. This clever story celebrates kindness, hard work, and community, as well as variety in gender expression: the male main character proudly engages in activities that might be considered typically girl (playing with dolls) and typically boy (building with tools).
Dr. Annie's Takeaways
Recommended for: This book is refreshing and sweet, and it presents the message that an initial disappointment could lead to something bigger and better than what one had initially hoped for. It’s also a funny instruction manual for how to graciously receive a present that one does not want, and a poignant story about a grandfather ultimately enthusiastically joining in his grandson’s interest in a dollhouse (they build it with his toolbox). This book, along with its companion book When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, is available in English and Spanish.
Would a child like it? Many children will find this book funny and validating. Both kids and adults will genuinely enjoy it.
Tone: Funny, sweet
Story Quality: This story is a companion to Deenihan’s first book, When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree. It is similarly written as a set of dryly funny instructions in second person and has a similar theme of a child’s initial disappointment turning into an opportunity for personal growth and community building. It’s perhaps not quite as funny, but it has a new layer of depth–the main character is a boy who wants a dollhouse, but his grandfather gets him the more gender-normative gift of a toolkit, which he doesn’t want at all. Over the course of the story, the boy realizes that he can use his toolkit to help people (and birds), and in the end, he and his grandfather build a dollhouse together, using his toolkit. It’s an awesome, subtle portrayal of a grandfather and grandson learning to appreciate each other for who they both are.
Illustrations: Beautiful, vibrantly colored watercolor illustrations with fun details and some visual humor.
Representation: The narration is written in second person, and the details of the text are fairly non-specific and would apply to most readers, with the expectation of the mention of a grandfather. The illustrations show the story of a boy with brown skin and straight black hair who is gifted a toolbox by his grandfather, who has brown skin and white hair. The boy and his grandfather live in a city with houses and apartment buildings close together. The boy wishes for a dollhouse and is shown playing with dolls; the story celebrates this and has a beautiful resolution of the boy and his grandfather building a dollhouse together. This book is available in English and Spanish.
Psychological Practices: This story is a really fun way to talk about coping with disappointment by being open-minded and considering that a setback may lead to unimagined possibilities. It is also a funny and super non-preachy way to prepare children to appropriately respond when they receive presents they aren’t excited about. For children whose interests may not align with someone’s traditionally-gendered assumptions (as is perhaps especially likely to happen with older relatives), this book presents a beautiful path to authentic connection and creative resolution.
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