Nana's Birthday Party

Nana's Birthday Party

by Amy Hest, Amy Schwartz

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Every year, Nana throws herself a grand birthday party, with relatives from all over the city and her special birthday rules tacked to the door: NO JEANS, NO Gum, and NO PRESENTS, EXCEPT THE KIND YOU MAKE YOURSELF. Best of all, Maggie and her cousin Brette have a sleepover at Nana's the night before.

This year, Maggie is determined to make something special for


Every year, Nana throws herself a grand birthday party, with relatives from all over the city and her special birthday rules tacked to the door: NO JEANS, NO Gum, and NO PRESENTS, EXCEPT THE KIND YOU MAKE YOURSELF. Best of all, Maggie and her cousin Brette have a sleepover at Nana's the night before.

This year, Maggie is determined to make something special for Nana — far more special, she hopes, than Brette's gorgeous paintings, the ones that hang in real frames over Nana's fireplace.

Amy Hest and Amy Schwartz are the author and illustrator of The Crackof-Dawn Walkers, The Purple Coat, and Fancy Aunt Jess — warm and funny stories about families. In their latest collaboration, readers will meet two spirited cousins and their irrepressible grandmother on the eve of the most memorable birthday party ever.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hest and Schwartz, whose past collaborations include The Purple Coat and Fancy Aunt Jess , here present the endearing tale of two cousins preparing for the birthday party their grandmother throws for herself every year. Maggie and Brette spend the night before the fete at Nana's Manhattan apartment, which Schwartz creatively decorates with a dazzling panoply of intricately patterned fabrics, wall coverings and rugs. After the dynamic Nana hangs streamers from the ceiling, she and her granddaughters curl up on the couch to look at old family photos, each of which, says Nana, ``tells a story.'' And then, rather than make individual presents that compete for Nana's attention, the cousins share their particular talents and make a special joint gift. Hest peppers her narrative with inviting particulars, including the ``birthday rules'' Nana tacks on her door. Equally entertaining are Schwartz's vividly detailed pictures, which capture the distinct personalities of the two girls. One quibble: after all the anticipation and buildup (not to mention the title), youngsters may be disappointed when the story ends before Nana's party. Ages 5-up. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-Each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Nana throws herself a birthday party, and her two granddaughters, Maggie and Brette, always spend the night before the event at her grand Manhattan apartment. Besides helping to bake a cake, decorate the spacious living room with streamers and balloons, and looking at old photos, the girls agonize over their special gifts for their grandmother, gifts that she insists must be handmade. Maggie, the narrator, is a writer; Brette is a painter. Both feel that the other gives better gifts. The story comes to a smooth and logical conclusion when the children collaborate on a book inspired by one of Nana's black-and-white photographs. A solid, old-fashioned sense of family is captured in the text. The colorful precision of Schwartz's detailed drawings adds life and vigor to each scene. The elderly woman's character is revealed through the lively abstract and floral patterns that dominate her apartment. This book, with its emphasis on happy, creative, homespun experiences, will strike a chord in many readers young and old.-Martha Topol, Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI
Stephanie Zvirin
Like "Fancy Aunt Jess" (1990), Hest's latest picture-book story, a charming portrayal of family relationships, seems so genuine it might have grown from one of the author's own treasured memories. Every year Maggie's lively grandma (who brooks no nonsense and accepts only homemade presents) throws herself a grand birthday celebration. Maggie looks forward to helping her get the house ready for the guests and to sleeping over with her cousin, Brette, and learning about her mother and aunt as children. This year, Maggie wants to write Nana a birthday story. Unfortunately, she has no idea what to write about, and she worries that Brette's present--sure to be a painting because Brette has brought along her paints and easel--will be better than hers. "If I could paint the way she does . . ." mourns Maggie, a bit jealous and somewhat in awe of her cousin's talent. But Nana sets her straight, reminding her that "every picture tells a story." Taking Grandma's words to heart, Maggie and Brette celebrate their own special abilities and together create the perfect gift. Schwartz's fluid yet exuberant watercolors perfectly capture the cousins--as friends and as competitors--in all their differences and make a beautiful show of Nana's cozy apartment, busy with color and pattern and with "floors so shiny you can glide like a skater when you're wearing just socks." A warm, wise story about cousins that captures continuity and affection across generations.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
38888 Harper
Product dimensions:
7.91(w) x 10.57(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
5 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

In Her Own Words...

"I grew up in a small suburban community about an hour from New York City. My favorite things were biking, reading, and spying. I spied on everyone, and still do. Coffee shops, I find, make an excellent backdrop for this particular activity. I may look like I'm minding my own business, sipping coffee, eating a cheese Danish, but in fact I am really doing spy work. Listening to conversations at the tables nearby. Watching to see who is saying what to whom. I am amazingly discreet for someone who never went to spy school. As I pick up bits and pieces of true life stories, I quietly weave in my own ideas, creating new stories with my very own endings. Spy work is a lot of fun.

"My parents took me to the city often. I loved the commotion and whirl on the streets and the screeching subway underground. I loved the hot dogs and crunchy doughnuts at Chock Full 0' Nuts, and the way mustard came on a tiny rippled paper. By the time I was seven, I was certain of one thing: that I would one day live in New York. Many years later, after graduating from library school, I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I live here still, with my husband and two children, Sam and Kate.

"I was a lucky child, really. I was so close with my grandparents, it was as if I had two sets of parents all the time I was growing up. They lived in New York but came out to our house on weekends. Fridays, Nana cooked up a storm and arrived laden with shopping bags filled with homemade Jewish delicacies. She lit Sabbath candles and told wonderful family stories. I was privy to the best gossip.

"Grampa and I played checkers. We took earlymorning walks. My goal: to get out of the house before my brother woke up, to be alone for once with Grampa. Destination: hot chocolate and a buttered roll.

"I suppose I have to tell the truth about the kind of child I was. The best word to describe me: boring. I never once did anything extraordinarily wonderful or extraordinarily terrible. I knew in my heart I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, but there was this nasty little voice in the back of my head, and it was laughing at me. "You must be kidding, Amy! Why in the world would anyone want to read what you write? Remember who you are: the most boring person in the universe. Nothing ever happens to you. What nerve you have, thinking you can do something wonderful and clever like write."

"I worked for several years as a children's librarian and, later, in the children's book departments of several major publishing houses. I had a lot of good jobs. I had a secret, too. I wanted to write. And what I wanted to write, always, was children's books. it took me a long time to get over a kind of fear of writing, to start to believe I could do it. it took me a long time to realize all those boring days of my childhood may not have been so empty after all.

"My books are about real people-often people in my own family, with new names hut familiar personality traits. The setting is more often than not New York City. Family, home. Running themes in my life, and in my stories, too."

Amy Schwartz is the author and illustrator of many picture books for children, including Begin at the Beginning; Things I Learned in Second Grade; Bea and Mr. Jones, a Reading Rainbow feature; What James Likes Best, recipient of the 2004 Charlotte Zolotow Award; and a glorious day.

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