I met Nelson many years ago, when she was a children's librarian up north of us, about to publish Almost to Freedom. Librarians/teachers/bloggers, you know how it is - you meet someone at a conference, Walmart, wherever, and someone tells you, "you know, she just wrote a children's book!" and you smile politely and try to extricate yourself from the conversation, because you have already suffered through so many horrible self-published works.
Well. I don't think I have to tell you that there is nothing remotely horrible about Nelson's books (Bad News for Outlaws is my personal favorite). I will always wish I had extended that particular conversation, but it serves me right.
Nelson has since penned everything from picture books to junior readers to chapter books to young adult, and now back to picture books:
Nell isn't your typical great-grandmother. But in the course of this picture book from Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Vaunda Michaux Nelson, a young girl finds a way to express her affection for this prickly, independent woman.
I had to look Zunon, the illustrator, up right away because I liked the pictures so much. The title page spread is a dresser covered with fancy perfume and powder boxes, which immediately brought back memories one of my great-grandmothers. I was very small when we would go by her house to clean and cook a little, but I vividly remember those old, fancy perfume bottles (and all the china dogs!)
Great-Grandmother Nell is much more glamorous - and a great deal more stern - than either of the ones I remember, but our narrator wouldn't have her any other way. Tidbits of history, from movie prices to race relations, are sprinkled through the brief but full text. A wonderful book to savor, or to use as a conversation starter.