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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Review Of Grandpa's Workshop

Lost Art Press has recently released a children's book:  Grandpa's Workshop.  Here is an image of the cover from the Lost Art Press website:

This book is...unusual.  Modern American books for children are extremely generic and sanitized through corporate entities.  The purpose of a modern children's book is to entertain in as polite a way possible.

The story telling tradition pervasive among all of humanity is meant for more than mere idling away the hours around a fire. Stories are meant to teach, warn, develop, and any other verb you can apply to human activity.  Grandpa's Workshop is a story in the human tradition.  This is a prosaic way of saying Grandpa's Workshop does not pull punches in telling the several sub-stories of the book's narrative.

Not since reading the original Grimm's fairy tales have I been treated with a children's story that does not hide real life from kids.  Topics like disfigurement in war and alcoholism are real life topics that occur in the book in an appropriate manner; that is, as part of the narrative and not a contrived focus.  There is also the mainstay fairy tale of good triumphing over evil in the killing of a dragon with joiners tools.

I suppose some nuts and bolts material about the book is in order, without giving too much away, of course.  The narrative surrounds a grandfather and his grandson where woodworking tools and their history in the family comprise some of the sub-stories.  Tools often come to a woodworker through strange means; who'd a thunk reading the stories behind their journey would be interesting?  There is a saw that traveled from America, back to the 'old country', France.  There is also a tool chest that says something different every time someone opens the lid.  Perhaps the most ominous tool looks like a werewolf slaying weapon from antiquity--the besaigue.  I have read and heard Christopher Schwarz say "Don't anthropomorphize your tools; they hate that".  Grandpa's Workshop taps that very human quality to personify the objects around us.

The true stars in this book are the illustrations.  Every page is festooned with brilliant images and imagery.  The cover alone is a visual treat that had to be shared and I hope Lost Art Press does not have a problem with me republishing it.  I started to read the story to my ten year old daughter.  Around page three she demanded to see the pictures for herself instead of me finishing the story.  We never did finish the reading together, but we spent quite some time looking at the illustrations and reading snippets of the action shown.  I'm kind of glad it worked out that way; after all, there are many more bedtimes ahead of us.


  1. Thanks for the great review. I did buy the book and totally agree. Your review is just more eloquent than mine. ... One day you may be able to finish the story with your daughter.

  2. I was standing in front of Chris's booth at the WIA show in Cincinnati waiting to return his coping saw after upgrading his cam lever, and got into a conversation with a 9 year old boy. He said that his father was reading the book with him and that he particularly liked the part where the dragon was slain.
    What a perfect book.

    Lee (the saw guy)