Do you have grandmother memories that you treasure?
I have so many, and luckily for me, as I launch my new picture book, My Bibi Always Remembers, about a grandmother elephant and her little grandbaby, I have a reason to revisit them all!
Like little Tembo in my new book, I looked to my grandmother Mae Mackey for guidance, for reassurance, for fun and frolic. We were a team, Grandma Mae and I. Even when I misbehaved a bit (And honestly, I wasn’t a rascally little one—I was too worried about the reaction of an excessively strict father for that!), she loved me so unconditionally that I felt safe in exploring the boundaries of what was allowed when in her care. Could I slip out the backdoor by myself to mow the lawn? Could I pick all of those brilliantly colored tulip blossoms growing along the front fence? Could I eat every last black olive in the bowl, but not my broccoli? Would she still love me? (Yes! She would!)
All this to say that grandmother love is extraordinary in my memory with bushels of forgiveness for childish lapses built in and tons of support and gentle guidance. I was terrified of the water when I was young, but no matter, Grandma Mae was there to hold me and keep me secure, even while I got safely wet. She taught me the value of rules while she indulgently allowed me to break a few. Most of all, she taught me about unconditional love.
When I encountered the elephants of Amboseli National Park in Kenya for the first time in 1995, I instantly recognized that grandmother love in the matriarch elephants of each family, leading the way to food and water, a long line of elephants following behind. Those enormous elephant matriarchs, with their huge patterned ears and long, graceful tusks, were just like my Grandma Mae, focused on the welfare of each member of their families and the family as a whole.
I returned to visit those elephant families again two years ago, to witness their bonds and to watch them travel purposefully across the savannah, protecting the littlest members on the long journey to food and water. I imagined a little elephant (Tembo in my story) with a young one’s inability to stay attentive all of the time and a propensity for getting lost. Her mother and her auntie round her up the first two times, but when she is truly separated and alone, it is her Bibi, the grandmother matriarch, who brings her back to safety among her family—while also leading them, at long last, to the water she has always remembered.
I know about that sort of wisdom, that sort of uncompromising devotion and love. I know about it because of my Grandma Mae. I hope that you do, too.
About the Author
Toni Buzzeo is a new grandmother as well as children’s book author, reviewer, and retired school library media specialist. Her most recent books include Just Like My Papa, and Stay Close to Mama, and she won a Caldecott Honor for the New York Times best-selling picture book One Cool Friend. She divides her time between a colonial farmhouse in Buxton, Maine, and a home near the ocean in Sarasota, Florida.
Next Blog Tour Stop: Momma Drama
By Toni Buzzeo; Illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
BiBi is the grandmother and matriarch of her herd, and it is her responsibility to lead the others to water. But along the way, baby Tembo gets side-tracked by objects that remind her of memories, such as playing jackalberry tag, stork chase, and hide-and-seek, and falls behind. Bibi is always there and calls out to little Tembo to guide her way safely to water, teaching Tembo that if she listens she can learn how to find water, just like she does. In addition to this comforting familial tale, included on the last page of the book is an author’s note about elephant behaviors and social structure.
With sound words and repetition throughout the book, MY BIBI ALWAYS REMEMBERS makes a wonderful read-aloud and captures the heartwarming relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Disney Publishing Worldwide | Sept. 2, 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1-4231-8385-3