Shining a Light on Great Books: Emma’s Gems


We spent quite a lot of time this past summer with our grandchildren. We live on the coast of BC, and our summers are generally spent on a boat exploring the wonders this coast has in abundance. This year, we did less travelling to new places and more revisiting familiar and favourite places to share their delights with our kids and grandkids. Our newest little one had her first birthday in August and I was struck by how much she has changed in just one year—from tiny, helpless infant to an inquisitive, active, increasingly independent human being. The others have summer birthdays too—this year they turned four and six and they are bursting with curiosity and enthusiasm for looking and touching and learning.

Because of my experiences watching the kids this summer and how they absorbed new information so easily (especially from their Grandad), I was particularly charmed by a new picture book entitled Emma’s Gems (translated from French by Anne Renaud, published by Peanut Butter Press, 2019) in which young Emma spends an afternoon with her Grandpa Phil. They take a walk in the neighbourhood and have fun together, and Emma learns a lovely life lesson when Grandpa Phil moves a small, coloured stone from his right pocket to his left pocket three times during their time together. Emma finally asks, “Why do you carry stones in your pockets?” Grandpa Phil explains that these are no ordinary stones; they are his generosity gems which remind him that each day brings new opportunities to do things for others. “The grey one reminds me to share with a person. The brown one reminds me to help an animal. And the white one reminds me to take care of the environment. Every day I do my best to make them travel from my right pocket into my left with three acts of kindness.” Emma absorbs this quiet lesson immediately, and when they return home, she takes three coloured beads from her collection to be her own generosity gems and finds three ways to be kind before she goes to bed.

Lively watercolour illustrations by Leanne Franson perfectly depict Emma’s moods and her powers of observation as she and Grandpa Phil enjoy their day.

This gentle story is a reminder of how readily children learn when given thoughtful guidance from significant adults—like parents, grandparents and teachers like you! Best wishes for a wonderful year as you help your students learn whatever lessons they are ready for.


Diana Mumford
Diana is the Editor at Canadian Teacher Magazine.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Fall 2019 issue.

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