Grandfather Counts

Grandfather Counts

by Andrea Cheng

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In this contemporary intergenerational story, a biracial girl and her Chinese grandfather overcome language differences and develop a special bond.


In this contemporary intergenerational story, a biracial girl and her Chinese grandfather overcome language differences and develop a special bond.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Helen, the eldest of three children, relates what happens when her Chinese grandfather, Gong Gong, comes to America to live with them. He speaks no English, and the children speak no Chinese. Helen has had to give up her small bedroom, from which she could watch trains passing. One day, as she is sitting outside on a concrete wall watching a train go by, she sees Gong Gong at the bedroom window waving to the engineer. One evening, he joins her outside and begins counting the freight cars in his native language; Helen repeats the words, and then teaches him the English. More words are shared, and a special closeness develops between them. Helen's voice sounds authentic, as she describes the tensions and bonds in the family. Bold, impressionistic acrylic paintings with soft blues, greens, and yellows predominating sometimes cover whole spreads or pages, sometimes are framed in white with text above or below. The characters and translations are given for the Chinese words used in the text. An affecting and tender addition to multicultural and intergenerational literature.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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. Helen is ambivalent about the arrival of her grandfather, Gong Gong, from China. She wants to know her grandfather, but she has had to surrender her room and her cherished view of the train tracks to him. Worst of all, he doesn't understand what she says, and as she doesn't understand him, he withdraws. Her mother says to give him some space and time. One day while Helen is sitting on the back wall, Gong Gong joins her, and together they count the train cars as the freight rumbles past. Contact. Helen learns the first eight numbers in Chinese and Gong Gong learns them in English. From there it is a short leap to Helen's Chinese name and its Chinese characters, and then the letters used to spell Helen. 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. (Picture book. 4-6)

Product Details

Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.54(w) x 10.38(h) x 1.00(d)
AD410L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Dr. Short is a division director at the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a teacher, trainer, researcher, and curriculum/materials developer. Her work at CAL has concentrated on the integration of language learning with content-area instruction. Through several national projects, she has conducted research and provided professional development and technical assistance to local and state education agencies across the United States. She directed the ESL Standards and Assessment Project for TESOL and co-developed the SIOP model for sheltered instruction.

Dr. Tinajero specializes in staff development and school-university partnership programs and has consulted with school districts in the U.S. to design ESL, bilingual, literacy, and bi-literacy programs. She has served on state and national advisory committees for standards development, including the English as a New Language Advisory Panel of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and the Texas Reading Academies. She is currently professor of Education and Interim Dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas at El Paso and was President of the National Association for Bilingual Education, 1997-2000.

Dr. Schifini assists schools across the nation and around the world in developing comprehensive language and literacy programs for English learners. He has worked as an ESL teacher, reading specialist, school administrator and university professor. Through an arrangement with California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, Dr. Schifini currently serves as program consultant to two large teacher-training efforts in the area of reading for second language speakers of English. His research interests include early literacy and language development and the integration of language and content-area instruction.

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