Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie

Written by  Laurie Jacobs
Illustrated by Anne Jewett

Grandma Tillie knows just how to royally entertain her grandchildren. To Sophie and Chloe’s delight, whenever Grandma Tillie babysits, she seems to disappear, only to be replaced by a parade of lovable characters.

There’s Tillie Vanilly with the bright pink hair, star of The Tillie Vanilly Show, who loves to tell jokes and dance the conga, Chef Silly Tillie with the lampshade hat, who offers up a dinner of Giggly Chili, and Madame Frilly Tillie with the sparkly eyeglasses and  towel turban, the world’s most creative bath-bubble stylist.

But who will appear to tuck Sophie and Chloe into bed? Hiker Hilly Tillie? Explorer Chilly Tillie? Zoo-lady Gorilly Tillie?

No! It’s just plain Grandma Tillie, the best story-teller of all.

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  • Gelett Burgess Award, Multi-generational, 2012
  • California Department of Education Recommended Literature List


From Kirkus Reviews
Grandma Tillie feels old and just likes to sit and knit. Or does she? When Grandma Tillie comes to babysit Sophie and Chloe, she transforms herself into a series of frolicking companions, beginning with “The Tillie Vanilly Show.” She juggles and tells jokes at the same time; struts a conga line into the kitchen, where she serves up worm chili with glue gravy or frosted snake toes from Chef Silly Tillie’s Diner. At bedtime, Madame Frilly Tillie washes and soaps the girls with bubble make-up. All clean and ready for a story, the girls ask for the real Grandma Tillie to reappear, and she does. The whimsical illustrations of pencil on paper, digitally painted, finesse the exaggeration with colorful details: Grandma Tillie in her various disguises sports a fuchsia lampshade hat, chartreuse top, pink hair and rhinestone cat’s-eye glasses. A brown-and-white cat is part of the mischief in every scene. Told in first-person voice by older Sophie, the capricious tale will have young girls wishing for a silly grandma just like Tillie, especially if she can hang a spoon from her nose.

From Children’s Literature
When Grandma Tillie comes to babysit for Sophie and her younger sister, Chloe, she brings her cat and her knitting bag because all she likes to do is sit and knit. Except that Grandma Tillie disappears with her bag into the coat closet and emerges as the entertainer Tillie Vanilly, who can juggle, tell silly pun-based jokes, and lead the girls in a conga line. After conga-ing to the kitchen, Tillie Vanilly transforms into Chef Silly Tillie, who offers snake toes and worm chili for dinner. While the girls eat plain old grilled cheese sandwiches, she sings and cheers as they blow bubbles in their chocolate milk. At bath time, Madame Frilly Tillie appears to beautify the sisters with bubble hair-dos. Grandma Tillie returns, at Chloe’s request, to read a bedtime story and refuses to be silly. Sophie, though, is sure she hears her grandma conga-ing down the hall. The colored-pencil and digitally painted illustrations are bright and vivid. The story will appeal to young children and their grandmothers, reminding the latter to have fun with their grandchildren and the former that it is fine to be silly as long as they go to bed on time.

From San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review **** (Four Stars)
Just when you’ve decided Grandma Tillie is over the top, she shows a knack for being the grandma a sleepy kid needs. ….This story is a charmer. Who wouldn’t love a grandma like Grandma Tillie? Anne Jewett’s lively and colorful illustrations catch Grandma’s gleeful spirit and the joyous fall-out of her stylish babysitting.

From Horn Book
Although Grandma Tillie claims sedentary interests, she is anything but when she babysits for Sophie and Chloe. Grandma’s “Tillie Vanilly Show” and her various other personae and acts, complete with jokes, riddles, makeovers, song, and dance, delight the young sisters. …the story is endearing.

From Edwards Book Club
Grandma Tillie… is an entertainer and story-teller, a Grandma that any young child would love to have. An endearing children’s picture book, lovingly created in words and illustrations, bound to be a hit.

From Bayviews
Grandma Tillie transforms into hilarious and dynamic characters when she babysits her two young granddaughters. The first character is Tillie Vanilly, with giant pink hair, who juggles and tells jokes while a spoon hangs from her nose. Next is Chef Silly Tillie who offers the girls worm chili with glue gravy for dinner. The following character, Madame Frilly Tillie, bathes the girls and fashions a bubble beard and a tower of bubbles on the child’s head. While the girls love all Tillie’s unforgettable characters, to tuck them in to bed and read a bedtime story, they want their real Grandma Tillie. Illustrations are drawn with paper and pencil, scanned and digitally painted to imitate the traditional painting technique of gouache, color pencil and salt. While the illustrations are expressive and lively, they also appear slightly blurred with a matte finish. The theme of a dynamic and loving caretaker is one that many children will be able to appreciate, though with the pink cover this book may appeal more to girls.

From Kid Lit Reviews
…a hilarious book for little girls and grandmothers of little girls. …Grandma Tillie, grandchildren sitter, entertains her young girls with silly-frilly joy, …lots of love, and jokes…. The illustrations take advantage of the wonderful text while drawing out these characters in pencil. Ms Jewett expertly used her computer and the pencil drawings to simulate a traditional painting technique called gouache (using the colored pencils, salt, and a white pigment to lighten the tone, adding opacity and a matte finish). …Girls will love Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie. The numerous opportunities to exaggerate the characters and touch the tickle-bone of those listening make this a great read aloud story. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is not one of those books only a grandmother could love. This is a book anyone reading it will love. I appreciated the tenderness written and drawn into the story. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie will happily be read over and over, again and again!

From Large Print Reviews
Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie chronicles the adventures of Grandma Tillie over the course of one night’s babysitting. Grandma Tillie is just the ‘right’ person she needs to be, at just the right time. So it is not surprising that Sophie and Chloe enjoy having her babysit. There are no great lessons to learn here, except perhaps that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is just an enjoyable story that will entertain and make young listeners go off to sleep with a smile on their faces as they dream of conga dancing grandmas! Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie was written by Laurie A. Jacobs, whose words are vividly brought to live via Anne Jewett’s illustrations. Although not marketed as a large print book, the text of this book is printed in a dark font that measures out to about a 17-point font, qualifying it for large print status. This is a great read-out-loud book filled with fun illustrations that are as entertaining as the text. It will make a great addition to the personal library of any young child.

From Grandma Home Bloggers
[An] adorable story…about a grandmother who enjoys being silly…to…entertain her granddaughters. My favorite character is “Madame Frilly Tillie!” She certainly makes bath time fun. Although, “Chef Silly Tillie” can make an awesome grilled cheese sandwich. I promise, this story will warm your soul and never bore you, as it absorbed my attention to the very last page. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside! I found it to be colorful, eye-catching with the vivid choice of graphics and a genuine, captivating story to share with ANY grandchild. Oh and, obviously, Grandma Tillie enjoys changing characters and entertaining MORE than knitting!

From Midwest Book Review
Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is a high-spirited children’s picturebook featuring outrageously wacky color artwork by Anne Jewett. …An excellent read-aloud pick, Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is playful in tone, yet the dialogue is sufficiently advanced to encourage little ones who have mastered easy reader picturebooks to take the next step forward.

From NY Parenting
New book celebrates grandmother-grandchild bond
A wonderful Mother’s Day gift for a special grandmother, Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is a beautifully illustrated tribute to those special women that can’t help but delight their grandkids.

From MyShelf
Grandma Tillie isn’t your ordinary grandma. Sure, she says she likes to knit and doesn’t play games, but her granddaughters know better. Grandma Tillie plays dress-up better than anyone and each new change brings new fun. Grandma Tillie makes the normal babysitting activities into a lively game for fun and imagination. Laurie A. Jacobs lively, imaginative text is matched perfectly by Anne Jewett’s bright illustrations with plenty of pink and purple to delight the young reader. Grandma Tillie’s wild wig is a tsunami of pink that coaxes her granddaughters along with the fun. With fun on every page, this is one story that will have kids giggling every time.–Jan Fields

From Librarian of Snark
Yet another sweet story about family and how we enjoy them – this time we meet Grandma Tillie and all the sides to her personality that she lets shine whenever she babysits. Kids will love this one – what crazy thing will Grandma Tillie be next? Kids will also enjoy seeing how their grandma compares to Tillie and will recognize that each part of Grandma Tillie has a time and a place, especially the Grandma Tillie we see at bedtime. Fun illustrations complete the story.

From Jean Little Library
…The cool colors and funny details, like the cat imitating Grandma Tillie as she hams it up, will keep parents and kids in giggles. Kids will recognize familiar family routines and grandparents will enjoy reading this one aloud – and maybe getting a few ideas for babysitting. Verdict: A delightfully silly story celebrating imagination – and grandmas. It will be a family favorite and will have kids clamoring for rereads.

From Practically Paradise, SLJ blog
My sons haven’t had children yet to make me a grandma, still next Sunday I will instantly become one when I say “I Do!” to Kenneth Patrick Kelly in a simple ceremony in our house with 2 sons, 4 dogs, and 2 cats present. Instantly I have step-status for Julia, Lexie, Colyn, Austin and the two babies on their way thanks for Patti and Catherine. I’m far more excited than Ken and already dreaming of spoiling them rottenly sweet. I hope I can be a super-cool grandma like Tillie in Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A. Jacobs….
When I unwrapped this title, I was immediately attracted to the illustrations by Anne Jewett. This title begs to be read and shared. It’s irresistible to little girls and provides many opportunities for creative grandparents all over the world to insert their own brand of silliness. I even like the font and had to go read the CIP data for more info. This book was typeset in Zephyr and Gypsy Switch. I want those fonts! Anyone know how to get them? I was impressed with the thickness of the cover also. Flashlight Press has published a book to last through many storytimes and snuggling sessions with grandma.
Anne Jewett has inserted a quirky cat in each page who enjoys the girls’ romps as much as we do. For a fun story give this to grandma’s everywhere and watch out for their knitting bags (in my case, crochet bag). You never know when wild personas will emerge.

From A is for Aging, B is for Books
Bring to mind your favorite play times with your grandparents as a child—the ones that really make you smile. Now, multiply by ten to imagine Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie. Older sister Sophie and her little sister Chloe are up to their eyeballs in fun with their Grandma Tillie after mom and dad leave. Worm chili for dinner? Or roasted snake toes? There are bubble beards and conga dancing, jokes and juggling, songs and silliness— Grandma Tillie arrives with a bag of tricks disguised as her knitting. Their evening debuts with the Tillie Vanilly Show (starring grandma in bright pink hair), moves on to Chef Silly Tillie serving dinner, and Madame Frilly Tillie managing bath time. Although “managing” is not really what Grandma Tillie does—every activity, no matter how mundane, is injected with humor and creativity. Author Laurie A. Jacobs and illustrator Anne Jewett leave out the age stereotypes and highlight games and silliness as powerful forces for equality between the generations. I often forget this as a parent—grandparents do seem more skilled in that area! The illustrations are a wonderful mix of drama and coziness. We always know that underneath the playfulness there is Plain Grandma Tillie looking out for her girls.

From The Corner on Character
This colorful gem is sure to knit its way into the hearts and minds of its readers, as young and old alike connect with the grandiosity of this gentle Grandmother. Cheerfully complemented by Anne Jewet’s playfully uplifting illustrations, Laurie A. Jacobs’ text weaves a web of intrigue when this super-hero Grandma comes to babysit. Check out this book to see exactly what unravels with Grandma Tillie, whose bag of tricks and outrageous antics keep her granddaughters guessing. It will undoubtedly keep you in stitches too! …Want an activity guide to enrich the story? Our friends at Flashlight Press make them available for all of their titles. Prepare to have a ball with this one!

From Grandparents
This delightful book about a grandma by Laurie A. Jacobs celebrates grandparents in all of their roles. Lots of Silly Tillies: When Grandma Tillie ducks into the coat closet, she whooshes out again as Tillie Vanilly, sporting a flowing mane of pink hair. She juggles, tells jokes and leads a conga line to the kitchen, where she morphs into Chef Silly Tillie, trading in the pink hair for a purple lampshade and offering worm chili and roasted snake toes before finally agreeing to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Madame Frilly Tillie appears to help the girls with their bath and with their bubble coiffures. When it’s time for bed, though, it’s plain Grandma Tillie who reads their story and tucks them in.
Picture Perfect: Anne Jewett’s luminous illustrations bring the characters to life in fine fashion. Her technique involves drawings that are scanned and digitally painted. Employing a palette that is somewhere between pastels and jewel tones, Jewett’s illustrations have a depth and texture that give them an almost tactile appeal. She adds a curious cat that the grandkids will have fun looking for in each spread. The Bottom Line: I’m so happy that I’ve found Flashlight Press, the company that Publisher’s Weekly calls “the Little Publisher That Could.” Flashlight specializes in children’s books, and they have added substantially to the too-short list of quality kids’ books with grandparent characters. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is more light-hearted than most of the other Flashlight titles, but they all treat the grandparent-grandchild relationship with uncommon insight. The books are carefully designed and crafted and have won a whole raft of awards and honors. I expect to see Grandma Tillie on 2012 award lists. A grandma who juggles and congas deserves no less!

From Wee Share
To say that Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie is fun is quite the understatement. In many ways, Grandma Tillie actually reminds me of Raileigh. You see, life with Raileigh is a constant parade of characters. Every day, she pretends to be multiple people or characters, and even chooses characters that Darren and I are to portray. She is quite good at staying in character, and Darren has even remarked that we should enroll her in acting classes. Currently, Raileigh is a pony named Puzzlemint and I am supposed to be a pony named Rarity {they’re both from a television series about ponies– I’m sure you know the one!}. It’s usually fun to see which persona she’ll choose and watch as as acts out every little detail just as that character would.
I don’t know if the resemblance is what draws Raileigh to Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie, but I do know that she loves this story. In addition to the fun text, there are great illustrations as well. There are lots of fun little details and special touches that make every page visually appealing. The pictures really pair well with the text as well as the feel of the story. Just as Raileigh enjoys Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie, I think the special little ladies in your life will like this story, too.

From Mommy Secrets and The Asset Edge
The book is sure to spark your creativity, and inspire you in your own silly and loving ways. (Hint – it would be a fun Mother’s Day gift for Grandma’s in your life!)

From Book and a Garden and Book Loving Grandma
This imaginative bedtime story is a delight from start to finish. Kids will love the antics of all the Tillies, and might want to try pickles in their chocolate milk or bubble creations for themselves. Accompanying Laurie A. Jacobs’ lively text are Anne Jewett’s bright, colorful, and appropriately comic illustrations. (The pet cat’s mimicry of the actions of the humans is priceless, and its appearance throughout the book–even on the barcode on the back cover–adds to the fun.) Young readers and listeners are sure to clamor for Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie to accompany them to bed on many a night. Another winner from Flashlight Press.

From Grandma Ideas
…a delightful, delightful book…. This is a great book. I love the illustrations. They are very appealing. I love the plot — it’s fresh and fun. I would be willing to read this book over and over to my grandchildren. It would even spark a let’s-dance-the-conga activity with the grandkiddos. This book is definitely a keeper.

From Bookfoolery and Babble
A creative, playful storyline with bold, happy illustrations make Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie a winner.

From The Jewish Journal
Award-winning local author Laurie A. Jacobs has recently published her third children’s book. This adorable and entertaining tale is sure to be a hit with adults and children alike…. Children will be entertained as they read this imaginative and funny story. The pages are brightly illustrated with whimsical designs and graphics that follow along beautifully with the story.”

From 2nd Grade Reading
…Rollicking fun for Grandparents Day or grandmother-themed activities. The voices for Grandma Tillie’s characters make this a great class read aloud or a reading activity for a cross grade-level activity. Grandma Tillie stands out among the many picture books about grandmothers. She is loving and sensitive to her granddaughters, like other grandmothers, but she is uniquely different with her dramatic flair. With that in mind, the story works as a reader’s theatre piece or a book that can be turned into a skit. The lavish illustrations fit this grandmother’s personality and bring a larger-than-life story appropriately to life.

From Kiss The Book Blog
When Grandma Tillie comes to babysit, all sorts of other characters come too. Silly Tillie, Frilly Tillie, and Tillie Vanilly all come to the house to tell jokes, cook dinner, and bathe the granddaughters in the most fun imaginable. The two little girls love all of the different characters Grandma Tillie becomes, but really, they just want to spend some time with their regular Grandma Tillie.  Lively, colorful pictures and a fun story of a grandma who is trying to mix things up, make this book a great read for dispelling myths about the older generation. PRE-K, K-3- ADVISABLE. 

About the Creators

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Laurie Jacobs is the author of Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie, illustrated by Anne Jewett. Laurie has published short stories in Cricket Magazine, and is the author of So Much in Common and A Box of Candles, which won a National Jewish Book Award. Before writing for children, Laurie worked as a lawyer. Laurie loves to garden, cook, read, and think up stories. She lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts with her husband, three children, and her dog Max. 
You can find out more about Laurie and her work on her website



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Anne Jewett is the illustrator of Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie, written by Laurie Jacobs. Anne has been a freelance illustrator since 2006. She spends part of her time writing her own picture book manuscripts, and developing characters that appeal to children. Her mixed-media technique consists of gouache, colored pencil, and salt on Strathmore 500 series Bristol, which is scanned and altered in Photoshop. Since 2009, she also uses Corel Painter X to recreate her texture and style digitally. Her clients include Babybug Magazine, Oxford University Press, and the Santa Anna Zoo. Her first picture book, The Warmest Place of All, was published by Pleasant St. Press in 2009. Anne also enjoys painting theatrical sets for children’s dramatic productions. She lives in central Florida with her husband, two children, and Mimzy the westie. 
You can find out more about Anne and her work on her website

Book Details

ISBN: ePDF 9781936261598  ePUB 9781936261604  KF8 9781936261611
Print Length:
32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date:
March 2012
Age Group: 4-8
Lexile Measure:
Word Count:
 Foreign Edition: Chinese

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Activity Guides & More

THEMES: grandma, siblings, babysitting, imagination, costumes, bedtime routine

Leveling Information

Lexile Measurements provided by Metametrics. Guided Reading Levels provided by Marla Conn using Fountas and Pinnel Guided Reading Text Characteristics.

Lexile Display: AD550L

Word Count: 756

MSL: 6.936

MLF: 3.258

Decoding Display: High

Semantic Display: High

Syntactic Display: High

Structure Display: Very High 

Guided Reading Level: K

Grade Level Equivalent: 2

Interest Level by Grade: Pre-K-4

Educational Description: Picture book, narrative prose, lyrical text

Story Elements: setting: home, plot and character development, Point of view: Sophie, humorous tone, riddles, illustrations enhance meaning and tone, figurative language: alliteration

Comprehension Strategies: identify cause and effect relationships, sequence of events, predicting outcomes, make inferences, draw conclusions, make text-to-self connections

Themes: creative imagination, grandma love, play