Grandfather Counts

Helen, a biracial Chinese Caucasian child, has to give up her room when Gong Gong, her grandfather, comes from China to live with her family in America. Gong Gong seems disappointed that his grandchildren don’t speak Chinese, his only language, and Helen, her brother, and sister, who speak only English, are disappointed they cannot communicate with their grandfather. At first Gong Gong stays in this room and reads the Chinese newspapers he has brought with him. But one day Gong Gong joins Helen as she watches the trains go by behind their house. Soon he and Helen begin counting the train cars together, and they teach each other to count in their own languages. The ice is broken and they begin to bond, which fosters Helen’s interest in learning more about her Chinese heritage.

Characters
Helen
Gong Gong
Cece
Author perspective

When I was a child, I was able to communicate with my grandparents in Hungarian, but I often wondered how different my life would have been if I couldn't. When my children were little, my friend from Hong Kong invited her parents to visit her family in Cincinnati. Her parents were not able to talk to their four American born grandchildren. I watched her father shrink into his Chinese newspapers, and I wondered what he would do when he had finished reading them all. My husband's parents spoke English and so were able to communicate with our children, but I often thought how much richer their relationship would have been if our children spoke Chinese. From all these experiences came Grandfather Counts. Helen in the story is modeled after my middle child, Jane. Her older brother, Henry, is a little bit like Nick. Ceci, the younger sister, is like my youngest child, Ann. I dedicated this book to my parents who have always supported me in all my endeavors, but my father died before the book was published.

Kirkus

"Cheng's story of a Chinese-speaking grandfather who comes to live with his daughter's English-speaking family ably communicates the difficulties of the language barrier, and the unanticipated joys that come from working your way through that barrier... That every journey starts with a first step is a commonplace conceit, but here the notion fits so snugly the point practically sings, and it feels like an adventurous beginning at that. Lushly colored artwork from Zhang is both elegant and captures the moods of tentativeness, surprise, and satisfaction."

Booklist

"Cheng's story of a Chinese-speaking grandfather who comes to live with his daughter's English-speaking family ably communicates the difficulties of the language barrier, and the unanticipated joys that come from working your way through that barrier... That every journey starts with a first step is a commonplace conceit, but here the notion fits so snugly the point practically sings, and it feels like an adventurous beginning at that. Lushly colored artwork from Zhang is both elegant and captures the moods of tentativeness, surprise, and satisfaction."

Info
Book type: 
Picture book
Publisher: 
Lee and Low Books
ISBN-13: 
978-1584301585
Illustrator: 
Ange Zhang
Publication date: 
Sep 2000
Interest level: 
Kindergarten–4th
Awards
Reading Rainbow Selection, Jun 2000
Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC)50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know , Jun 2001
Honor Book Society of School Librarians International, Jun 2001
Resources
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