The Old Woman
Author: Joanne Schwartz
Illustrator: Nahid Kazemi
However, this is not a children’s book. I find that the story, and deeper understanding of the old woman’s end of life journey is too dense for the younger crowd, and the writing too simplistic for the older crowd.
This is a very serene book about an old woman and her dog, clearly in the twilight years of their lives. They live in a house “with not much in it.” One day they go for a walk through the hills because the old woman wanted to “hear the crunch of the dry leaves under her feet…” Implying the notion that it is the autumn season both literally and figuratively.
It’s been a while since they’ve been out like this, and the reader is given the sense that this will not be an activity oft repeated. The woman observes a crow, with a childlike wonder about what it would feel like to fly. She throws a stick for her dog to fetch. She finds a good walking stick, and takes a break on a boulder she knows is good to sit on.
The swirling wind stirs up memories of when she would be playing outside for hours. Kazemi portrays the woman in a younger manifestation of herself – a wistful wish that the day would last forever.
The illustrations in this book are stunning. Kazemi masterfully depicts the two characters to both evoke that childlike sense of wonder mingling with the slight weariness of age. The expressions of both the woman and dog are delightful. [Editor’s Note: The Illustrations in this book are breathtaking. Kazemi’s work should be hanging in a gallery.]
However, this is not a children’s book. I find that the story, and deeper understanding of the old woman’s end of life journey is too dense for the younger crowd, and the writing too simplistic for the older crowd. Other than depicting the life of an old woman outside the scope of a child’s perspective, I find this book boring.
Additionally, White/light characters, especially female ones, are over-represented in children’s literature; even switching the color/gender of the character would have made this a better book. But Anjali, you might say, how does that fix all the other flaws in the book? Well, when you are not used to seeing yourself represented in books, even bad representation is better than none.
My verdict, the illustrations are gorgeous, I wish the words/story matched.
[Editor’s Note: You can read more about DEI within the publishing world, here: Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey]
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
My thanks to Groundwood Books for providing a Review Copy of this book. All opinions provided herein are my own.
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