"MY GRANDMOTHER IS A SINGING YAYA" by Karen Scourby D'Arc is probably written for children older then four and half, but Kenzie insisted on us checking it out from the library after I read her the title. Neither one of us knew what the heck a YaYa was, but we know now. "YaYa'' is Greek for grandma. (I did see the Big Fat Greek wedding movie, so I had an inkling.)
The singing YaYa in this picture book is a grandma who does what she pleases. She sings when she's walking down the street and she sings when... well, she sings most of the time.
What struck a nerve with me in this story though, was the concept of being embarrassed by someone. One page 3 (pictured above) the grandma is holding a carrot and is singing along with a bunch of dogs in a window while other people sitting on the bench are looking at her like she's nuts. Her granddaughter is slumping over in a posture which is saying 'Oh dear, she's at it again.'
The page reads--- "I look at the people passing by and try and tell them with my eyes, "She can't be stopped." Yaya notices sometimes and shakes her head with a smile, saying, "I know. I know. I'm embarrassing you."
What's embarrassing mean Nana?" Kenz asked me as she studied the illustration.
"Well, it means, it means, um, someone is acting different or silly and you feel funny about it because other people are watching."
"Oh," she said studying the girl on the bench, "she's embarrassed of her YaYa."
I kept reading, but had a moment where I felt all of time move forward. To feel embarrassment of another person that is acting silly in a fun way or someone who is different and enjoys life; to feel a sense of shame about it... well, that's a step out of childhood bliss.
Oh yes, there were times, I mean, are times my children are embarrassed of something I might say or do or wear, but they are older and I'm their parent. I think grandchildren, at least I like to think that grandchildren accept us no matter what. They do when they are small. They love us for our silliness. They love us for our playing with them, for dancing, singing (off key) and being ourselves. They don't notice that others are looking at us like we're wierd.
We read the story a few times and Kenz like I am doing now didn't take the embarrassment thing so lightly. "What is embarrass again, Nana? Tell me again."
Through the whole book, the girl LuLu (love the name) is either embarrassed or worried about being embarrassed by her grandma's bellowing out the tunes. LuLu knows that because her grandmother gets so excited and happy about life, she's apt to burst into song. LuLu is like her YaYa and feels like singing when she's happy, but she doesn't feel free to do it like her grandma does.
Then there's a picnic to celebrate the 50th Birthday of Lulu's school and YaYa is asked to lead the singing. She sings for the whole school and takes a bow. LuLu is finally proud as punch because everybody liked YaYa. This is where the title of the book comes in. Now Lulu, when she is walking down the street will sometimes burst into song "My Grandmother is a singing Yaya!"
It's a fun book because of the sing song words. It also gives words to a feeling; a sensation a child may have when someone is causing undue attention. Or, maybe they have heard a grown-up say to them, "you are embarrassing me" and were not quite sure what that meant. This book could help with that. YA YA YA
My Grandma is a Singing YaYa
Illustrations by Diane Palmisciano