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The Story Behind . . .
Grandma Gets Grumpy
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When I sold my first book my children were thirteen, eleven, and two. I had been writing for a number of years at that point and had several stories in the works inspired by activities and personalities of both the older girls. Among my earliest published books were Bethany for Real, featuring the real Bethany, and Maybe A Band-Aid Will , with it’s following two companion books, all about Sarah and her doll Abigail.
When  it came to the illustrations the older girls posed for me occasionally, but it was Lassen who was really the right age, and on whom I called the most often.  "Come here for a minute and sit like this, or stand like that," I'd say. Then I'd do a sketch or take a photograph and she'd go back to her play. She was Mattie in Come to the Meadow, and Corey in Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti, but I had not used her name in any of my books. "When are you going to write a book about me?" she asked again and again.
Here is Lassen at the age of three when she posed
for Co
me to the Meadow, pigtails and all.

I am the oldest of seven children and was the first to produce grandchildren.  In fact, none of my siblings had any kids until Bethany and Sarah were ten and seven.  That year two cousins were born. The following year, Lassen and two more cousin came along, followed by two more cousins a couple years later.  It was great for Lassen. When the family got together there were lots of kids near her age and they could be a rowdy rambunctious group.  When I came up with the idea for the story I decided to leave out a few of the aunts and uncles and a couple of the kids.  Casey actually has a younger brother named Andy, and Michelle is Casey’s age with a younger sister named Kelly.  By the time I was working on the illustrations another round of cousins was coming along.  The model for Michelle is actually Heather.  And the total number of grandchildren eventually grew to seventeen.

Since we lived out of town visits to Grandma always involved staying overnight, and frequently when Lassen was there some of the other cousins would stay as well.  Grandma did—and still does—like to vacation in Hawaii. She does wear T-shirts and sandals, have a Silly Goose puppet, like kids and only get grumpy when it’s absolutely necessary. Enough of the story is true that my brother says the book belongs in the non-fiction section.

These are the cousins in 1983. Two of them are four years old and three are three. Lassen is the one in the pink.  I said, "Count to three and I'll take the picture."  So they are counting on their fingers.  The big girls are Bethany and Sarah.

One good thing about having a bunch of kids at once in a family is that there are plenty or them to go around.  Can you find all five of the little cousins in this picture?

Here is Grandma in her Hawaiian T-shirt
with Heather (Michelle) on her lap.


This is Lassen at seven years old, the way she looked when I was working on the pictures for "her" book. She's already getting pretty tall, so I made her younger.

Although I’d been accused of putting myself in books before, this time I tried to make the people look like my family—including my husband which resulted in one of the very few father’s of a young child in a picture book to be bald. Gary had started going bald at the age of eighteen however, so even though he was a bald father, he was still a reasonably young father.

For the color in this book, I used Aquarelles, which are colored pencils which turn into watercolor when you apply water.  I was not sure enough of my watercolor skills to use straight watercolor, and by putting the color where I wanted it with the pencils and then carefully using the brush, I was able to keep the control I wanted.  I then put more layers of colored pencil on top to brighten the pictures and add detail.

This book was a lot of fun to and has been fun to share with audiences—young and old.

Published by Clarion, 1988

When Grandma offers to have her five grandchildren all spend the night, her abundant patience is tested. The grandchildren learn that Grandma has limits, and figure out how to make her smile again.
Kid's Favorite Books, Children's Choices, 1989-1991, Children's Book Council/ International Reading Association

Anna Grossnickle Hines looks at the world through a child's eyes.  With her gentle words and conventional illustrations of  both children and adults, she manages to defuse the anxiety inherent in such typical preschool situations as going to the bathroom alone at night ("All by Myself") or sharing toys in order to be a successful playmate ("Keep Your Old Hat"). But even though her picture books address everyday problems, her solutions are a little utopian.  These families rarely lose their tempers; the fathers seem to be paragons of postfeminist sensibility (witness the dad as cook and comedian in "Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti") and grandparents, especially, are models of indulgence.  Therefore, it's refreshing to see that Ms. Hines's latest adult heroine, a grandmother, is a little human--she actually gets grumpy.
The scenario is simple: Lassen, the little girl who narrates the story, describes how much fun it is to visit her grandmother.  Unlike her parents, who frequently exhort her to mind her manners, her grandmother plays games with her and interprets her occasional boisterousness as "lots of energy." That is, until Grandma takes on an ambitious project: she agrees to baby-sit not only for Lassen, but for all four of her other grandchildren so their parents can get together for a party.  The children will have supper and stay overnight at Grandma's house.
Although young readers may have slight trouble keeping the various cousins straight, Ms. Hines's colorful and often humorous illustrations show clearly why Grandma's patience begins to unravel.  The author-illustrator strikes an appropriate balance between showing the children's enthusiasm for the games they play - from dress-up to fireman to ghost - and indicating the havoc they blissfully wreak.  By the time they have demolished the living room and knocked over a lamp, Grandma is not only not smiling but downright grumpy.  "We didn't know she could shout," says Lassen, who is astonished to hear Grandma sounding as shrill as her own mom and dad.  Grandma, who looks rather hip in an "Aloha" T-shirt, casual pants and sandals, explains something the children have never considered: "I taught Lassen's mom, and Brian's mom and Casey's dad everything they know about being grumpy.  And I'm older, so I've had more practice."
Although parents may best appreciate this bit of irony, the lesson won't be lost on children: their mothers and fathers once misbehaved in the same ways they do, and are no more contemporary ogres than their grandmother is a saint.  In fact, seeing her get grumpy inspires the children to take Grandma less for granted, and to acknowledge that, like their parents, she can care for them even though she may not be pleased by everything they do. This point is summed up nicely when Grandma, after cheerfully reading to them, says a fond good night to her "rascals" and Lassen notes: "Grandma really does like kids.  And we like Grandma!" The only quibble here might be Ms. Hines's choice of a verb.  In a story so filled with warm and honest emotions, what's wrong with a word like love?
Laurel Graeber, New York Times, May 1988

Grandma's decline in good humor is presaged by the chaos pictured on the cover, but she starts off quite unperturbed by the impending responsibility of having her five young grandchildren as overnight visitors.  Lassen, her granddaughter, is anticipating the glorious time they will enjoy together; unlike her parents who seem to always correct her behavior, Grandma "likes kids." But Grandma's patience gives out when the children's uncooperative attitude during an enforced cleanup - "We wanted stories, but that mess was big.  It was too big to clean up" - leads to squabbling and an overturned lamp.  Grandma silently waits for the children to come to their senses, and order is soon restored in her once neat living room.  The reward is ice cream, three stories in bed, and kisses from the Silly-Goose puppet.  The artist uses her now familiar gentle, colored-pencil illustrations to bring this pleasant story to life.  Hines has the envious ability to focus on the most ordinary situation, mix in a bit of gentle humor, and create, as the result, a charming and intimate glimpse into a preschooler’s world.  Her characters understand life better at the conclusion of her books; here a mere lift of an eyebrow from Grandma now controls unwanted behavior.  Lassen says, "Grandma really does like kids.  And we like Grandma!"
Ellen Fader, The Hornbook, July August 1988

A Horn Book Recommended Paperback, July/August 1990.

Grandma volunteers to take on all five of her preschooler grandchildren--from three families--while their parents have a party.  Lassen is delighted; Mama and Dad are often strict, but Grandma "likes kids." For a time, joy reigns as game follows game; but when it's time to pick up, the kids are too excited to focus on the job and the uproar continues till even Grandma shouts, "Stop!" and points out that she sounds just like their parents because "I taught [them] everything they know about being grumpy.  And I'm older, so I've had more practice." So the kids shape up, pick up, and get ready for bed-with a snuggly story-time first. This slice of real life is depicted with such humor and affection that kids are sure to enjoy recognizing themselves and their elders.  The soft, realistic pictures make each character an individual--Grandma is plausibly young, Dad is balding. (Picture book 3- 7)
Kirkus Reviews, April 1988

Five cousins spend the night with their grandmother, who lets the children get away with a lot more than their parents do.  However, this evening, when the active small children go a little too far and then don't respond to Grandma's requests, she shouts and tells the kids that she taught their parents "everything they know about being grumpy." There's a temporary standoff, but the kids clean their mess up, have ice cream, and settle down to a cozy goodnight story.  A common family experience receives Hines' usual comfortable treatment.  The softly colored illustrations portray a slim, youngish grandmother and authentic kids engaged in realistic play on clean white backgrounds.  In spite of the title, the subject is really the specialness of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, and the general absence of grumpiness. PreS-Gr 2
Leda Schubert, School Library Journal, August 1988

Pencil drawings in quiet colors illustrate a story that should appeal to children because of its familiar activities: eating, playing, fussing about, cleaning the resultant disorder, adjusting to the fact that even a patient, loving grandmother draws the line somewhere.  Lassen, the narrator, is one of five small cousins who are staying with Grandma overnight.  When Grandma does get grumpy (but not very), she freely admits that the reason she sounds like the children's parents is because she's the one who taught them "everything they know about being grumpy.  And I'm older, so I’ve had more practice." Then she shows how sensible and loving she is all over again.  A modest but not unsubstantial story in which the read-aloud audience should recognize their own behavior, and be amused. Gr.  K-2.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June 1988

Grandma's neat!  Lassen loves to visit because Grandma places "go-fish" with her, has clothes for dress-up, and generally, takes things in stride.  Then one night, Lassen's four cousins come to stay at Grandma's house too, and things get a little out of control.  Make that a lot out of control The cousins make a human tower and young Kevin gets squished; they zoom cars under the sofa and zoom themselves over the top; then, play hospital, until Grandma looks like the one who is sick.  Finally, Grandma gets grumpy-she even yells.  The cousins are shocked, settle down, even help clean up the gigantic mess they've made. When everyone is calm, Grandma gives them ice cream and reads them stories.  "Good night, you rascals," Grandma says.  The kids know she really loves them, and they love her.  Happily, this grandma is not the orthopedic-shoes-and-bun variety, often seen in picture books, but a more contemporary granny wearing an Aloha T-shirt and sandals.  Hines' younger figures are stiffly drawn, but technique will not matter to kids enjoying all the fun in store.  An appealing story that will strike notes of recognition in both children and adults. Ages 3-5.
Booklist, May 1988

Hines, brings the same flair for recreating the everyday details of children’s lives to this book that she showed in Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti, It's Just Me, Emily and other favorites.  A girl named Lassen always likes spending the night at Grandma's house, and on this night, there is a special adventure in store, because her four cousins will also be there.  At first they have a great time, but when the play gets out of hand, Grandma loses her temper.  One of the kids remarks that Grandma sounds just like her mom; Grandma explains that she taught all their parents everything they know about being grumpy.  After the children pick up the mess they've made, happiness is restored as everyone sits down for ice cream.  In order to pace the action realistically, Hines has drawn out the events, perhaps unnecessarily, but the story will comfort and entertain children.  The artist handsomely conveys the flavor and excitement of the gathering of an extended family.  Ages 3-6.
Publisher's Weekly, April 1988

Hines has a real knack for capturing family life. I'm beginning to expect an excellent book when I see her name.
Book Nook, Springfield, Missouri, March 1988

When I think of my favorite books for our market (6 months to 6 years) I always think of Anna Grossnickle Hines. I have never suggested one to a customer that they haven't bought! Any store that stocks Grandma Gets Grumpy should stock on the same shelf--side by side--all her other titles. Her books are contagious in a wonderful way.
Leah Curry Rood, Gryphon House, March 1988

The Five Owls: Selected Books about Families: by Stephen Fraser, November/December 1993

Five young cousins look forward to staying overnight at their Grandma's, because she doesn't reprimand them as their parents do. But when the kids get too rambunctious, they find out even the most loving Grandma can lose her patience. A gentle tale demonstrating that we all have our limits.
The Young Reader, Boston Globe, Winter 1989

Five little cousins stay at Grandma's house overnight, and have a fine time playing. But when things get out of hand, and the children jump on the sofa and knock over a lamp, even a loving Grandma can run out of patience. Restoring Grandma's good humor is not difficult, once the children figure out what to do.
Parent and Preschooler Newsletter, October 1989

The spirited grandmother in Grandma Gets Grumpy is the kind of babysitter kids (and their parents) dream of having. In charge of her five young grandchildren overnight while their parents are at a party, she masterminds a variety of games and activities to make the time fly. Yes, she does get grumpy as the night wears on, but it's for a good reason. And the youngsters forget her crossness when she gives them ice cream, kisses from a hand puppet, and a bedtime story before they all curl up together on the sofa.
Rosemary Black, The Record, Hackensack, NJ, September 1988

A very brave grandma cares for all five of her young grandchildren at once. Both text and illustrations show that she's a great grandma, never scolding, never nagging, never grumpy. But on this one night, grandma shouts, gets grumpy, and "sounds just like mom." How grandma and the children work out their problems is a lesson in parenting as well as in character development.
Lee Galda, The Reading Teacher, December 1989

Grandma Gets Grumpy is again a book that focuses on a sympathetic grandma. This one invites her five grandchildren to spend the night despite the concern of the children's parents - her three married children and spouses - "Are you sure you want to do this, Mom?" "Are you sure you can handle all five of them, Mom?" Parents and grandparents and children, reading this book will hold their breaths at times, and will certainly smile a bit when they see Grandma, arms crossed watching a set of five penitents on the sofa on the facing page, and again when it looks as if with the obvious good will on both sides, they might make it through the night.
Ann Fielder, The Times, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, March 1989

In this book, a very modern grandma takes on five grandkids all at once. To the children, Grandma is always patient and lets them play rough, make big messes, do all the things they are never allowed to do at home. After a trying night, Grandma finally does blow her stack. She shows her grandchildren that she taught their parents everything they know about being grumpy. In an upbeat ending the toys are picked up, order is restored and Grandma still remains the nicest Grandma anybody could have. Young children will enjoy this book and be able to identify with the children's antics.
Lynn Wilhelm, The Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, June 1988.

Spending the night at Grandma's house is fun for little Lassen because Grandma has toys, dress-up clothes, stories, ice cream, and a Silly-Goose puppet that tickles.  But when Grandma decides to watch Lassen and her four cousins while their parents go to a party, one playful activity leads to another until the mess at clean up time is overwhelming and Grandma "gets grumpy" with the children.  The children accuse her of acting like their parents, to which Grandma replies that she taught their parents everything they know about being grumpy and "I'm older, so I've had more practice." Clever Grandma then just waits out the children until they redeem themselves by cheerfully cleaning up, so all ends happily.  Hines's soft watercolor and pencil illustrations reflect typical children doing familiar things with family.  A strength of the book is Hines's choice of Lassen as the narrator.  Her child's perspective is simple and direct, making the story and its lesson clear to the audience.  The warmth of this story shines through in both pictures and text.
Perspectives: Review Journal of Cooperative Services for Children’s Literature, University of Toledo, Fall 1988

This is a warm, pleasant story describing the special relationship between grandparent and grandchildren, seen through a preschooler's eyes.  Lassen and four cousins spend the night with Grandma, pointing out all the things that Grandma permits which aren't allowed at home.  But eventually things get too wild even for Grandma, and she "gets grumpy." Her classic line is "I taught (your parents) everything they know about being grumpy.  And I'm older, so I've had more practice." The children pick up their mess, Grandma loses her grumpiness, and the evening ends happily with stories and good-night kisses.  Illustrations portray real kids engaging in typical play.  A nice slice-of-life that preschoolers will relate to.
Betsy Wachter, Association of Children's Librarians of N. CA. November 1988

Grandma loves to have her grandchildren over to her house to play with them, give them ice cream and read them stories. But, one day, when the children's play becomes too wild, the children discover that even Grandma has limits to her patience. A wonderful read-aloud book!
Joyce Mesrobian, Read-It-Again Books, Parentimes, December/January '93-'94

Lassen and her four cousins are excited to spend the night at their Grandma's house. Grandma loves kids and never yells at them...even when they're naughty. But when the children get too noisy and play too roughly, Grandma shouts, "Stop!" Grandma Gets Grumpy provides a gently humorous look at what happens when even the most patient grandparent has had enough.
Lisa Lane, Children's Book Corner, Salisbury MA, May 1988

The cousins are all excited to be sleeping over at their grandmother's house. But when their enthusiasm bounces off the couch and knocks over the lamp Grandma Gets Grumpy. Anna Grossnickle Hines explains that the cousins shouldn't have been surprised because, after all, everyone has limits, even grandmas. Ages 4-8
MetroPARENT,  Milwaukee and Madison, May 1994

Grandma lets Lassen do all sorts of things not allowed at home. But when she and her four cousins are at Grandma's (without their parents), things get out of hand and Grandma gets grumpy--until the cousins figure out how to make things right. 3-5 years.
The Friend, November 1992

Kids aged 3-6 will find this a realistic story of a child's relationship with her grandmother: unlike the usual idealistic visions of peace and harmony, Grandma here becomes disillusioned with her charges. Children and adult must learn new ways of pleasing one another.
The Bookwatch, Oregon WI, San Francisco CA

This is another story about a grandparent's unconditional love. A little girl and her four cousins can't wait to stay at Grandma's house because she lets them have more fun than their parents do. But one night they are in the midst of wrecking the living room when Grandma shouts, "Stop!" "We didn't know she could shout," the kids say, realizing that Grandma sounds just like their parents. Once the kids get over their surprise, they help Grandma clean up, and by the time they some ice cream, Grandma isn't grumpy anymore.
Molly Dunham, Evening Sun, Baltimore?, October 1990

Five young cousins spend the night with Grandma. What a wonderful time they have together until things get out of hand, as they were bound to do. Grandma must assert her authority to put the place back in order. Great story!
The Grandparent Connection, Selby Public Library, Florida, December 1990

Lassen and her four cousins enjoy an over-night visit at Grandma's.  Grandma has lots of things to play with and joins in their games without imposing the restrictions they are used to from their parents.  But even Grandma's patience runs out and, when "Grandma gets grumpy," the children find out that it was Grandma who taught their parents how to be grumpy. Hines' soft color pencil drawings show the five cousins in action; the transformation of Grandma as she tires and the effect of her grumpiness on the children are clearly expressed, The warm, loving relationship between Grandma and the children shows clearly in both text and illustrations.
The George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, 1988

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