Grandmother Silk


This is an excellent book for tracking character development with beginning chapter book readers.


Ruddy’s parents go on an autumn cruise, leaving him for a 10 day stay with his Grandmother Silk. She is the kind of grandmother who has “designer hair” and dislikes the level of noise and dirt that young boys bring to life. She holds a handkerchief to her nose at the zoo and phrases a question about a Halloween costume like this: “As what animal do you wish to disguise yourself?” With a gardener and a cook and her signature high heels, she is remote from the practicalities of every day life; needless to say, she is not someone Ruddy relishes spending time with. A massive snowstorm appears at first to be a disaster. Housebound, Ruddy has to forego the Halloween party at the local zoo and resort to eating crackers and cold canned soup. But as the days go by before the electricity is restored, Grandmother Silk engages in hauling water from the lake and building fires in the fireplace. Then a softer woman emerges, one who shares stories of her younger days and delights in chess games, snow angels, and glimpses of the moon. At the end of the book, Ruddy proclaims: “We had a great time.”

The above synopsis doesn’t do justice to Fenner’s pitch perfect depiction of Grandmother Silk. She comes across as an individual, not a stereotype. And the narrative arc in this story is expertly rendered. Some children notice that the evolution in Ruddy’s and his grandmother’s relationship is signified by his becoming aware of the bright green of her eyes and by her calling him Ruddy, not Rudford.

Ruddy GraphThe third person narration which is Ruddy’s point of view makes this story an opportune one for tracking the change in his feelings about his stay with Grandmother Silk. I’ve had third graders note separate instances of Ruddy’s feeling “happy” and “unhappy” about his predicament and then plot a point for each chapter on a character’s emotions graph. In talking to each other about the similarities and differences in their graphs, students use details from the text to substantiate their thinking.