GRANDFATHER’S KEY, the new children’s book by Amanda Dauvin, is a 30-page pun. A girl named Eva has just turned seven, and she pays a visit to her grandfather, who gives her a box wrapped in purple paper with a pink bow. Eva opens the box to find a small gold key on a chain. When Eva asks what the key opens, her grandfather responds in a riddle: “This key opens something that belongs to me, and if you can figure it out, it’s yours to keep.” Eva tries the key in every lock she can find, to no avail. Then her grandfather drops clue #2: the object is invisible. Finally, Eva figures out that the key goes to Grandfather’s heart, which she indeed cannot see.
The key to his heart. Get it?
This simple theme of love and devotion will resonate with the book’s target audience, yet the ending is a little confusing. As they walk to the kitchen for breakfast, Eva says, “I just want you to know that you don’t need a key to my heart . . . You’ve had it all the time!” Which may prompt readers to wonder: was this not true of Grandfather as well? Did Eva need a riddle wrapped in a scavenger hunt to be reminded that Grandfather loves her?
Perhaps that is an uncharitable reading. Or simply a nitpicky one. The fact is, fans of GRANDFATHER’S KEY will enjoy Eva’s plucky personality, Grandfather’s warmth, and the book’s mystery structure. The book is designed to prompt adult readers to reach back into their memories for that moment when they first learned the important truths about the lengths we’ll go to for someone we love. They will also like Floyd Yamyamin’s magical realist illustrations. Grandfather looks like Benedict Cumerbatch’s Doctor Strange, or maybe a young Ernest Hemingway. And Eva? A seven-year-old version of the author, of course. (Check out her photos on her website. You’ll see what I mean.)
Through magical realist illustrations and a simple but compelling story, GRANDFATHER’S KEY offers an interesting spin on an age-old theme.
~Anthony Aycock for IndieReader