Wednesday, April 21, 2010


N is for NǎiNai.

"NǎiNai" 奶奶 (pronounced nigh nigh) is the Chinese word for grandmother; literally - paternal grandmother. The retirement age for women living and working within cities in China is currently, 55. A singular most common sight, in any Chinese neighborhood across the country, would be a dark-haired, tiny toddler hobbling along with at least a grandmother; but perhaps also a grandfather, in tow. With the "one child policy" and because it is generally expected that both parents will work, many Chinese grandparents assume the responsibility of nurturing the next generation.

Countryside NǎiNai.... I don't think they ever retire.

Over ten years ago, when the boys were quite young and no children's books were to be found in our city, I sketched out a little story. I thought it might make a nice English language board book, giving little ones some flavor of life in China. I focused on the relationship between a girl and her grandmother (NǎiNai), and included pictures of common every day things. I thought about what I wanted each page to look like - with either drawn or photographed images. But my sketches were quite rough. With the creation of "Paint With Me Thursday" and this week's theme, Toys; I decided I would try to redraw my ideas. I am no real artist, though, *sigh* but here are some concept images of how it could be.

What did you call your grandmother when you were little?

Paint With Me Thursday is hosted by Simply Feather. (I hope a balloon counts for toys.) You can join in find other creations here. Next week's inspiration is "a word that you live by."
Alphabe-Thursday is hosted by Jenny at on my tangent... You can find more neat N posts here.

The NǎiNai photo was taken by a friend.


  1. Oh Steph,
    This is beautiful. I just adore the Chinese culture. Your sketches are wonderful too. I love your book, and that is all you need to submit to a publisher because they usually have their own artists that they use. What a wonderful children's book.

    I loved the faces of the Chinese Grandmas, so much wisdom, so much joy.

  2. I always just called mine Grandma... so original, I know ;)

    I love your story, I think it's charming! I think your artwork is great (and about a million times better than anything I can draw haha), so don't sigh about it too much!

  3. Wow..Steph, don't sell yourself short! Your sketching is quite fantastic, and unique. Maybe some days you can work it into a story book and publish it. You're quite talented.

  4. I love this story... remember when you wrote it originally... so nice to have such a talented 爱人.

  5. Nice tradition to retire at 55 and watch the toddler...very wise actually. I didn't get to know either of my grandmothers, but am now Nana myself and enjoying every minute of it! Love your sketches and story. Cute little person sketch at the bottom of your post too. xo,

  6. Lighten up on yourself. You are a wonderful artist. Give yourself credit. That would be a beautiful little book. I think a child would love it. Great job.

  7. I think it's a great story! And the illustrations are nice, almost in a Goodnight, Moon kind of simplicity.

  8. oh my gosh you are crazy talented..I loved the story and your drawing is fantastic.

  9. What a darling book! I don't remember what I called my grandmothers when I was little, it was a long long long time ago. My grandkids call me Henna. I don't know where they came up with it, but I love hearing them say it..

  10. that is a fantastic sketch story :D

  11. I only knew one of my grandmothers she was called nanna

  12. Love your sketches! You are so very talented. I called my great grandmother GG & my grandmother Grammie. I adore them both :)

  13. Oh, that is just so precious! I see it as a toddler board book, with illustrations or photographs. I would buy it.

    My son calls his grandmas Mi-Mi and Mi-Ma.

  14. This was wonderful! You may not think you're an artist, but you draw in great detail and each picture tells part of the story. Good Job!

    I called my maternal grandmother, "Gramma", and my paternal grandmother, "Mean Old Woman". :)

  15. this is fantastic! what a sweet sentiment and a wonderful keepsake.
    my grandmothers we always called "nanny." boy, do i miss them something terrible!

  16. I didn't know my grandmothers but they went by grandma. My mom is Mimi, my sister is Gigi. I haven't locked in a name yet - kinda leaning towards meemaw. My granddaughter doesn't call me anything yet. Lovely book I really think it is amazing.

  17. Your sketches are wonderful ... and the idea for a board book like that is brilliant.

    I called my maternal Grandma... Little Grandma ... my mom's parents were shorter than my dad's parents so one couple was Big and the other Little.

  18. Steph, this is lovely. What a nifty and creative and lovely story, illustration and post.

    I am really impressed with the direction you are going with your work.

    And I'm glad you're working on it again.

    Don't give up your dreams, girl.

    Go get 'em!

    It's good to see your naissant talent!

    Thanks for a wonderful stop on my little journey through Alphabe-Thursday's letter "N"!


    And you get to hand out the art supplies this week.

  19. what fun! i think this is a great idea, and in my house a balloon definitely qualifies as a toy :)

  20. how can you say you aren't an artist! i called my gran...nonna

  21. Oh steph!!!!! I adore this....and I finally know what I am....I am a nainai....with kids and a grandpa in tow.....your book is just beautiful......

  22. Steph, I love the picture of the grandmother and I really like your story! You have a real gift.

    I need to let you know, you have an award over at the Prairie Maid! (If you want it...if not, not to worry!) LOL

    I didn't realize awards are work.

    Have a great weekend.

  23. You are so talented! Wonderful post!

    Hope you're having a lovely week and look forward to *seeing* your 'O' on Thursday!


    PS Sorry I've been a bit slow in replying to yr query about the award! Yes, you're quite correct! Most bloggers post it in the sidebar with a click-link back to the giver's site! Hope this helps!


Thank you for your comments. They help me feel that I am some how connected out here in Blogland and not just writing to the air.


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