We caught up with Fiona McArthur and Morris Gleitzman to learn about their Grandparents’ Day plans, the books they read with their grandchildren and advice for new grandparents.
Grandparents’ Day is coming up on Sunday 29 October 2023. In honour of the special day, we caught up with two PRH authors who are not only fantastic writers but also wonderful grandparents.
Read on for grandparenting insights from Morris Gleitzman and Fiona McArthur.
Meet the authors
Drawing from her earlier life as a rural midwife, Fiona McArthur shares her love of working with women, families and health professionals in her books. In her compassionate, pacey fiction, her love of the Australian landscape meshes beautifully with warm, funny, multigenerational characters as she highlights challenges for rural and remote families, and the strength shared between women. Happy endings are a must.
Morris Gleitzman grew up in England and came to Australia when he was sixteen. After university, he worked for ten years as a screenwriter. Then he had a wonderful experience. He wrote a novel for young people. Now, after 43 books, he’s one of Australia’s most popular authors. He was appointed the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2018–2019.
Their Grandparents' Day plans
Do you do anything to celebrate Grandparents’ Day with your grandchild/grandchildren?
FM: The infant and primary schools are lovely with their grandparent celebrations. We’ve gone in to read stories, had morning teas, and my husband had a disastrous science day where a very intelligent man could not make his . . . no idea what it was . . . work.
MG: I'm spending a week with Jack (6) this year leading up to and including the big day, and to hell with deadlines.
Do you have any plans for Grandparents’ Day this year?
FM: I’m hoping we can have a family day with all the grandees and their parents getting together at our farm. We’ll probably start with a morning tea food face, a tradition my husband started when the kids were at his knee and he was arranging fruit on his morning tea plate to make a smiley face. Now the kids send us texts with photos of their smiley face fruit plates and dinners. It’s very funny and has gone through from youngest to pre-teens.
Then we’ll have a barbecue, I’ll cook inside if there’s a fire ban, and we’ll watch them play backyard cricket. My husband fell over last year diving for a slips ball, so we’ll try to keep him under control this year.
MG: Switching my phone off (plus, the week of fun, mentioned above).
What is your favourite activity to do with your grandchild/grandchildren?
FM: I love when they write stories and we read them together. On a trip once I found two bags of painted stones in a market – I keep the little bags at the farm. Inside, there’s a drawing of a mountain, a storm cloud, a dog, a castle, a girl, a boy, a car, an island etc, and when the kids pour the stones out they can make up a story with a few of the plot points – it’s a fun thing to do. Then we compare them to what each person thought of.
MG: We tell each other stories. The current one has been going for two and a half years.
Did you have any special activities you did with your grandparents when you were a child?
FM: I remember sitting in the mulberry tree covered in purple mulberry juice. Every time we went to our grandparents' we ran down to the tree to see if the mulberries were ripe. Nana never minded the mess. I remember feeding silkworms in shoeboxes with mulberry leaves. I’m sure The Very Hungry Caterpillar idea came from a mulberry tree. 😊
MG: Watching TV wrestling (UK) while eating homemade chopped liver sausage rolls and chips.
Your favourite memory as a grandparent:
FM: Christmas Eve at the farm. Watching the Christmas carols on TV and waiting for them to go to bed so I could wrap presents. Putting out the reindeer food. Kids sleeping everywhere. And then the early morning wake-up. Squeals over a half-chewed carrot. Paper everywhere. Seeing your sons watching their own children. It’s very special.
MG: Jack surviving heart surgery at four days old.
One piece of advice for new grandparents:
FM: Enjoy. You have the treasure for making memories.
MG: All the good things they say about it are true, but watch your back.
The most magical thing about being a grandparent is:
FM: The moment children, young and older, first see you after time away. Faces lighting up, cries of “Nanny, Poppy,” and they jump up and down until the car stops then they run and hug you as you get out. That is magic. So is when the first older grandchild has her new driver’s licence and can’t wait to drive out and show us.
MG: Love without many domestic responsibilities.
Books you read with your grandchild/grandchildren:
MG: Heaps. Currently the Tashi series by Anna Fienberg. And the BattleBots manual.
Want more? Play this Grandparents' Day book bingo for hours of fun, guaranteed!
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