Review of "Grandpa's Workshop" by Maurice Pommier (Lost Art Press)
Grandpa's Workshop was originally written in French, with the author describing much of, perhaps, his own family's history, as described to him by his own Pépère (grandfather). Maurice Pommier, and the translators at Lost Art Press, have created a wonderful book for children in the English speaking world to understand about family history, and how the professions and experiences of our ancestors come down to us in various ways.
Describing a visit to his grandparents home when he was a child, the author shares the stories his grandpa gives him about the tools in his workshop, and the little elves that live there. First popular in the woodworking community, I think this would be a wonderful story to tell any child, particularly by any grandfather who likes to tinker. There's magic in these stories, and humor . . . but also hints of past tragedies and real darkness. It looks into the history as seen by a family in the French countryside, which we must realize has at times been filled with hardship and times of war.
But mostly its about a grandfather sharing his love for his craft, which in this case is woodworking, and the tools which he uses to perform it. We hear the tale of the English saw and how it traveled from the frontier of America, on a sailing ship across the sea, and eventually into the family. We learn about the uniquely French tool, the besaigue ("the sword of the carpenter!) and how the dwarves fashioned it for a brave joiner after he helped them with a little dragon trouble they were having. And we learn about the elves that live in the workshop, erasing the old man's scribed lines, and whispering dreams in the ears of children.
I've read this story to my six year old son, and he has been mesmerized by it. I am a woodworker, and I value that aspect of the story, but I believe that I'd love to tell my son this story whether I was or wasn't. Some of the tale, particularly in the back half of the book does get a bit sad, as the grandfather talks about the contents of an old toolchest as his eyes get suspiciously bright. But I value telling a story like this, as with the Grimm fairy tales, because they let a child know that there is trouble in the world as well as joy, and such trouble makes the stories, and our love for family and craft, that much richer and more valuable to us.
I highly recommend this book for both the words, and for the drawings, which bring the tale to vibrant life.