Cover image for A stopwatch from Grampa
A stopwatch from Grampa
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm.
Reading Level:
AD 580 L Lexile
Added Author:
A sensitive portrayal of loss and grief, told through a grandchild's inheritance of a stopwatch that belonged to Grampa. In this touching debut picture book about the loss of a beloved grandfather, author Loretta Garbutt explores the stages of grief with a delicate hand. The story opens with our narrator inheriting a stopwatch. For the grandchild, the object carries many cherished memories. "Grampa used to time everything. He timed me when I ran to the end of our street and back. Best speed, 24 seconds." As the year passes, and the seasons change, our narrator slowly moves through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). At first, the stopwatch is a painful reminder of Grampa. But in time, our character finds a special way to honor Grampa and carry forward his traditions. --


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"When summer started, I got Grampa's stopwatch," a small child says. "I don't want his stopwatch. I want him." Grampa used to time everything. A race to the end of the street and back: 24 seconds. Eating bubblegum ice cream: 1 minute, 58 seconds. But now, Grampa's gone. "There are no more Grampa minutes, Grampa seconds," the child says. "Time just stops." As the seasons come and go, the stopwatch becomes a cherished symbol of remembrance, and the child uses it to carry on Grampa's favorite pastimes and traditions.

Loretta Garbutt uses subtlety and sensitivity to explore the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) in this moving picture book story of loss. It features a gender-neutral main character (no first name or pronouns are given) making the story universally relatable. This is a perfect choice for fostering discussions with children about their emotions, particularly the feeling of loss. It also offers a poignant representation of an intergenerational relationship between a grandfather and grandchild. Carmen Mok's expressive and thoughtful illustrations employ a limited color palette to convey the character's emotional trajectory. There are curriculum applications here in social-emotional development as well as character education lessons in caring and resilience.

Author Notes

Loretta Garbutt is a children's bookseller and voice actor based in Toronto, Ontario. She has played the voice of Valerie on the beloved children's television series Max and Ruby and the voice of Franklin the Turtle. A Stopwatch from Grampa is her debut picture book.

Carmen Mok is a studio art graduate of the University of Waterloo and a craft and design graduate of Sheridan College. She has illustrated a number of children's books for publishers across Canada and the United States. Carmen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2--Told in an unadorned first-person narrative, this story provides an honest depiction of the loss of a grandparent. A child sits alone on a porch swing, holding Grampa's stopwatch, with a forlorn expression that matches the text: "I don't want his stopwatch. I want him." Time seems to have stopped; the summer day is still and quiet, and a dog waits patiently nearby with its ball. The stopwatch unleashes a series of vivid memories. Throwing the memento into a bottom drawer, the youngster faces days that now seem lonely and empty. Seasons pass, though, and "Remembering him feels good. Done in gouache and graphite, the illustrations meld together soft textures, warm backdrops, and appealing splashes of color. The characters' faces are expressive and deftly support the emotions revealed in the text. VERDICT A good discussion starter, this poignant, accessible picture book explores grief, the comfort provided by the passage of time, and the way in which memories allow us to keep loved ones in our hearts forever.--Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs

Horn Book Review

"When summer started, I got Grampa's stopwatch. I don't want his stopwatch. I want him." The accompanying illustration shows a child sitting all alone on a porch swing, bereft. We next see scenes from the past in illustrations set like snapshots on the page; these depict the child and Grampa's close relationship as they enjoy their mutual love of timing things with the stopwatch: how long it takes to eat three oatmeal cookies, or bubblegum ice cream (and how many seconds the subsequent brain freeze lasts); how long it takes for the child to race to the end of the street and back, or for a caterpillar to crawl up the child's leg. Now, without Grampa, the youngster is angry (drawing harshly scribbled pictures of monsters) and depressed (losing interest in ordinary activities). The watch is thrown into a drawer and forgotten. Time passes, and one day the child finds the stopwatch and begins timing things again. "The watch...makes me think of all the things we used to time together. Remembering him feels good...Like he is still here with me." Without being the least bit didactic, the book takes readers through the stages of grief-and in a heart-tugging ending, the protagonist moves forward in the healing process to introduce someone new, a younger sibling, to the pleasures of using Grampa's stopwatch. Details in both the text and the child-friendly, digitally produced art (including the empathetic, loyal family dog and homemade-by Dad-heart-shaped cookies) are perfectly pitched for the audience. Martha V. Parravano May/June 2020 p.96(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Something as simple as a stopwatch can start, stop, and restart a lifetime of memories.A young child with pale skin and dark hair holds a stopwatch and slumps, despondent, on a porch. Grampa has recently passed away, and the child is in the throes of sadness and loneliness. Together, they had used the stopwatch to record various activities in minutes and seconds, like the child's eating bubble-gum ice cream, Grampa's snoring on the couch, both eating oatmeal-raisin cookies, and more. Those seconds and minutes represented a deep, intergenerational friendship, the absence of which is keenly felt by the young child. Unable to bear this loss, the child buries the stopwatch in a drawer and experiences anger, bargaining, denial, even depressionrarely so clearly characterized in picture books for young readers. Time heals most wounds, and, as the seasons pass, the time comes at last when new memories can be made using Grampa's favorite stopwatch. Told in honest, first-person prose, this story gently confronts this first journey through loss, offering sensitive conversation starters for families. Muted, poignant illustrations rendered in paint and both colored and graphite pencils effectively depict this difficult yet all too common experience. The child's face in particular, though simply drawn, evokes a range of emotionsat once poignant and comprehensible.An excellent and understated portrayal of grief from a child's perspective. (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.