In Nana in the City a young boy is intimidated by the brash sounds and sights on his first visit to his Nana’s new apartment. (Clarion Books 2014, ages 4-8). However, his grandmother obviously revels in her bustling urban setting–she strides along confidently in her bright red boots.
They ride the subway and walk past graffiti, large crowds, and construction sites. It’s all a bit much, and author/illustrator Lauren Castillo’s words and art perfectly portray his fear and anxiety. “It is no place for a nana to live.”
Nana tucks him in tight at her cozy apartment and tells him, “Tomorrow I will show you how wonderful the city is.” Then she sets to knitting him a “fancy red cape.”
Nana’s magic succeeds in emboldening the little guy. With the cape trailing behind he finds excitement in the crowded park and on the streets that thrum with music and dance. He concludes, “There is so much for a nana to do in this city!”
The Power of Positive Images of Aging
The power of carefully selected words and bright, positive images shine vividly here. The talented Lauren Castillo shows kids an active and confident older adult that does not fit with the usual stereotypes attributed to growing old. This Nana is portrayed as loving, insightful, energetic and fun—with new adventures on the horizon. And I love her funky red eyeglasses and colorful coat.
Artists outside of picture books are also highlighting the diversity of older people. My daughter gifted me with an amazing book for Mother’s Day, Advanced Style. Talk about “Nana’s in the city!” This one is geared to adults (but don’t hide it from the kids).
The author/photographer, Ari Seth Cohen, shares on his blog,
“I roam the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks.”
You will be inspired by his photos, his blog, and a documentary coming soon to a theater near you. I need one of these women to take me by the hand, and take me shopping.
Check out the one minute trailer for the Advanced Style documentary. One of the seven stylish and eclectic women featured tells us,
“I never wanted to look young. I wanted to look great.”
Also take a peek at Grey Power: Turning Children’s Drawings of Grandparents into Real Life Portraits—an exceptionally engaging project from a Dutch designer and photographer. Yoni Lefevre and Nick Bookelaar posed grandparents with giant props styled from their grandkids’ drawings to create colorful photos.
“Lefevre explains that, unlike most of society, children don’t see their grandparents as “grey and withered” but rather “as active human beings who add color to their lives.”’ Bravo to Yoni and Nick! (Read more in this article.)
I think we all agree—unlike those in this blog, many media images do not make many birthdays seem a good thing, or show older adults in a positive light. As we grow older, we’d prefer that kids notice the vast diversity of older people and continue to see us as vital, valuable, creative and interesting.
Nana in the City is hot off the press for Grandparents Day on September 7th. Gift a grandmother…or a young child…Read more here about the importance of diverse images around aging in picture books.
Please consider signing up here for blog posts via email or RSS (twice/month). See top right. Thanks!
Copyrighted images from Nana in the City from the author and used with permission. Copyrighted image from Grey Power used with permission of Yoni Lefevre. I received a review copy of Nana in the City from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.