Review: How Old is Mr. Tortoise?


Guest post by Marsha Weiner

How Old is Mr. Tortoise? by Dev Petty, illustrated by Ruth Chan.

Abrams Books for Young Readers 2022 (Ages 4-8)

How Old is Mr. Tortoise? It’s a big question!

After all, tortoises are the longest living land animals in the world. It’s estimated that the Galapagos Tortoise can live over 150 years, the Aldabra Giant Tortoise can live to 225 years, and most of the non-giant tortoises live between 80-150 years.

This species, which has adapted to life on earth for over 55 million years, is often characterized as being placid, which is not a characteristic shared by Mr. Tortoise. Instead, he announces, with great excitement,

“Today is my birthday, and we shall eat cake!”

Sheer joy.

After a chorus of “Happy Birthdays” from his animal friends the obvious question is asked, “How old are you today, Mr. Tortoise.” After all, they need to know how many candles to put on the cake.

Mr. Tortoise isn’t sure how old he is, and by all evidence, he doesn’t really care. The author makes it clear that he’s not confused. He knows precisely what he cares about when he states, “I just want to celebrate a good life with good friends…. And good cake.”

Sounds good to me—at any age!

Author Dev Petty shares in an interview that this story was sparked by a real 190 year old tortoise. “But I also was thinking about how, at fifty years old, I know what day my birthday is but at this point am struggling to remember how old I am. I guess that’s a good sign that I’m not too concerned about it!”

Still determined to know the age of Mr. Tortoise, his friends guess, estimate and try to determine his age by lobbing various questions at him. The illustrations by Ruth Chan add delightful humor. As Mr. Tortoise’s answers continue to be a bit oblique, one friend speculates, “You may be very old.”

Unruffled, our hero remains true to himself. With his values intact and his generous spirit on full display, Mr. Tortoise exclaims, “Okay. Let’s have lots of candles and eat lots of cake.”

Through some cleverness (you’ll have to read the book to find out) it’s finally determined that Mr. Tortoise is 115 years old to which he declares,

“That’s okay! Does it matter how old I am? I feel good. I’m happy. I’m still terribly handsome. And I have wonderful friends.”

With some fretting about not having enough candles, Mr. Tortoise comes up with the perfect solution—making everyone a winner “Let’s use one candle for me and one for each of you… my good friends. We’ll blow them out together.”

Oh joy! More cake!

***Age Positive activities help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.

Contemplate • Celebrate• Repeat

Mr. Tortoise’s message of appreciation and gratitude for happiness, friendship (and good cake) is good medicine. There are now scientific claims that gratitude boosts emotional and physical wellbeing and even improves immune function (though there are no guarantees it will ensure a life of 115 years.)

For the adults reading this Age Positive picture book:

We are all Mr. Tortoise.

Regardless of age, we can be the one to model and integrate gratitude, with joy, even at the most mundane moments.

For children: this story has a great message from the oldest member of the gang.

Does his age matter? Not to him. But his insight certainly does. The children, too, can be Mr. Tortoise, and integrate joy and gratitude for a long life.

Find more Age Positive children’s books to counteract ageism.

A library copy of How Old is Mr. Tortoise? was used for this review.

You can find more great picture books at Susanna Hill’s blog for Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


Today I’m sharing two videos about ageism in children’s literature. —And also a simple request—please take a moment and pass on these resources.

Know any writers or illustrators? Any teachers or librarians? Parents or grandparents? The two videos on age stereotypes in children’s books are eye-opening—and an easy way to introduce others to the topic.

Simply copy the link to this blog post and send an email. Or share it on LinkedIn or social media. (If you care to, you can add hashtags such as #endageism #juvenileageism #diversityinkidlit #agepositivekidlit #antiageism ). Let’s all raise awareness of this important aspect of diversity in children’s books.

With gratitude, Lindsey.

Video number one: An interview on ageism in children’s books

In February 2024 I was honored to be interviewed by the director of the New York State Office for the Aging, Greg Olsen. Our video interview on Ageism in Children’s Books is on YouTube.

Greg asked well informed questions and I really enjoyed our discussion. Many thanks to him and his entire team. I also shared some titles of picture books filled with age positive images in text and illustrations. (Including those pictured here. You can find more on this website under the Picture Books tab, including books about grandparents & intergenerational picture books.)

Description of Live w Greg Olsen |Ageism in Children’s Books: Conversations across Generations

According to the World Health Organization, children as young as four years old become aware of their culture’s age stereotypes. Many of these portrayals are reinforced by children’s books and other media. In this edition of LIVE with Greg, NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen talks with Lindsey McDivitt, an author who is passionate about tackling ageism in books for children, including through her blog “A is for Aging.” They’ll discuss the power of children’s books in shaping attitudes about aging, and ways that older adults can discuss this issue with younger generations – all through the power of stories.

You can watch the video interview here.

Age Positive picture books

Video number two: VCFA lecture on ageism in children’s books

And a call to action.

Recently I learned that the highly regarded Vermont College of Fine Arts livestreamed a lecture about ageism in picture books. Its title “Grandma Shark*, What Big Teeth You Have! Everything we’ve gotten wrong about aging and how to make it write” (note: this references a highly popular song and series of videos for kids.)

Author Lou Hawes is on the faculty at VCFA and gave the lecture on ageism in children’s books in 2021. She asks writers, “Have we been conditioned to see old age through a veil of stereotypes?” Unfortunately, yes. It’s all too common that out of ignorance, writers for all ages reach for age stereotypes.

Lou’s lecture is interesting and substantive. I’m thrilled that writers working towards a Masters in Fine Arts in the VCFA’s program “Writing for Children and Young Adults” are being exposed to the pitfalls and dangers of unknowingly adding ageism to children’s literature.

“Ageism is an ‘ism’ that should concern all of us…any ‘ism’ involves othering and discrimination…[with ageism] we other our future selves.” Lou Hawes

I was grateful to hear my name mentioned along with my blog “A is for Aging, B is for Books” at about minute 14. Lou shared she learned of it from Cynthia Leitich Smith, a NYT bestselling children’s author and longtime champion of this website and blog. Huge thanks to both Cynthia and Lou.

More good news? You too can watch this video on ageism in children’s literature on YouTube.

I believe it’s a first for a university, but here’s hoping the topic catches on! Eliminating ageism is equally important to eradicating racism and sexism in books for kids. Lecturer Lou Hawes issued a call to action to both authors and illustrators.

“What can we do as wordsmiths, parents, grandparents to encourage intergenerational understanding and…look at people and the world around us with careful attention, not judgement? That you see, is a pretty good definition of love.”

*Note: As a relatively new grandmother, I’m perhaps the last to know, but the Baby Shark lyrics include one about Grandma Shark that utilizes notably ageist hand gestures & a trembling voice. Two closed fists opening and closing simulate a toothless, powerless old shark. Ugh. We can do better than this!

Find more resources on ageism & age stereotype in children’s books at “A is for Aging’ here.

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100 Picture Books: an Age Positive way to celebrate 100 days of school

Cute little kids wearing specs and shawls and shuffling along with canes and walkers. Adorable right? Sorry, but wrong.

This is the time of year that many teachers search out ideas for celebrating the 100th day of school.

Unfortunately, “Dress Like a 100 Year Old Day” is incredibly popular. And problematic.

Some even embrace the activity by taking it to the extreme—kids and teachers fake hearing loss and physical and cognitive impairments.

“These costumes and behaviors rely on simplistic and demeaning stereotypes that ignore the uniqueness of older people and the diversity of the aging process…”states a new guide for teachers from

“It’s ageist and also ableist: it contributes to stereotypes and stigma around physical and cognitive ability.”

OldSchool is an impressive Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse with many  helpful resources including this “A is for Aging blog.” Read more about a Call to Action to educators.

I’d like to offer another idea for celebrating the 100th Day of School—using picture books of course.

Age Positive picture books can show kids the possibilities ahead when living a long life, perhaps even to age 100. Carefully curated picture books:

–show kids that having many birthdays is a positive thing

–expose kids to a diversity of older people (as no one ages in the same way)

 Geriatrician Lisa Mitchell asks…

              “What if we allowed kids to imagine their lives as grandparents and                        100-year-olds as freely as they view their current selves?”

     Because truly, the possibilities for kids living their long lives as predicted are exciting. Even in later life. Not limitless, or boundless certainly, but exciting. However, stereotypes of older people do limit young people’s views of what’s possible.

Those negative age stereotypes also contribute to poor health and cognition, shorter lives and decreased happiness.

100 Books for 100 Years

Image from”100 Ways to Celebrate 100 Days” by Bruce Goldstone

Activity: Show children the possibilities ahead when living to 100 years old

Step one: Gather and stack a collection of 100 picture books*. (100! Imagine the kids’ excitement!)

Step two: Include numerous Age Positive picture books. Find Age Positive picture books here.

Illness and disability can certainly be present, at any age, but they do not define aging. Our Age Positive picture books lists include individuals with disabilities that are not depicted as pitiable, such as Henri’s Scissors at left. (Read more about ableism at bottom of page.)

Step three: Explain that each book is like one year in the life of someone 100 years old. And each page is one experience big or small.

No matter how old we are, our days are often filled with learning new skills and understanding new things. In a lifetime what we experience both in school, and other parts of our life will make us the person we become.

Step four: Perhaps build the book stack slowly and deliberately—with a pause at each decade to ponder what might have been experienced at that age. Maybe assign each child a number 1-100 and one book.

The books could showcase:

  • The values of intergenerational friendships
  • The knowledge, inner strength & creativity gained over a lifetime
  • Skills and strengths gained with experience

Please note—many picture books appeal to older grade schoolers too. Particularly non-fiction & bios.

Contemporary picture book biographies mostly do an excellent job of portraying the life of a person of note by focusing on traits such as perseverance, or their  interests or passions pursued since childhood. They highlight setbacks and challenges overcome, but remain accounts encouraging to all of us.

Age Positive grandparent books are useful too. And I believe that there’s huge value in showing children that unusual people “who didn’t fit into the world in a ‘regular’ way” still forged satisfying lives for themselves. (Read this post.)

Let’s all challenge ageism. Speak up—now is the time to talk to teachers about how their classroom will recognize the 100th day of school. Ageism hurts all ages.


Here are a few Age Positive picture books about centenarians worthy of special mention:

How Old am I?  

(Ages 4-8+) A first-ever children’s visual reference book on age…showcases the faces and life stories of 100 people from around the world, organised by age, from a one-year-old to a centenarian, giving children a visual and descriptive reference point for each age. Striking close-up black-and-white portraits are paired with read-aloud text that shares personal experiences, wishes, memories, and emotions, leaving readers with an appreciation and understanding of the ageing process. (Description

Mr. George Baker

(Ages 6-9) Mr. Baker is 100 years old and learning to read. He and young neighbor friend Harry ride the bus together and all the kids clamor for Mr. Baker to sit with them. The long-standing love between Mr. Baker and his wife are a real rarity in kidlit. Mr. and Mrs. B. dance together on the front porch to the bemusement of young Harry.

Illustration by Rebecca Gibbon in Marjory Saves the Everglades

Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas

(Ages 4-8+) When Marjory Stoneman Douglas returned to Florida from World War I, the home she knew was rapidly disappearing—the rare orchids, magnificent birds, and massive trees too. After age 40, Marjory became an advocate for the Everglades—“a slow-moving, life-giving river of grass,” convincing officials to establish a national park there, the first park not created for sightseeing, but for the benefit of animals and plants. She was almost 80 when a planned supersonic jetport required she amp up her activism. Her efforts continued until age 108.

show cover of book The Oldest StudentThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read.

(Ages 5-8). In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had a child. Mary Walker lived through twenty-six presidents and her precious Bible waited 101 years before she was able to read it. She finally learned to read at the age of 116.


* Activity inspired by idea #52 in 100 Ways to Celebrate 100 Days by Bruce Goldstone. Henry Holt and Company; 2010.

**Note: “It doesn’t take much head-scratching to realize that much of our fear about aging is actually about how our minds and bodies might change as we move through life. That’s not ageism, its ableism. It’s not actually about age: plenty of youngers live with disability and plenty of olders do not.” Ashton Applewhite.

Learn more about the intersection of ageism and ableism at .

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Review: Old to Joy

Written and illustrated by Anita Crawford Clark

Gnome Road Publishing 2023 (Ages 4-8)

I believe this is a wonderful first. The publisher’s description includes: “An intergenerational story that is certain to encourage a healthy-aging mindset among readers of all ages.” Kudos to Gnome Road Books! Read more about what we learn about aging from picture books. Lindsey

Guest post by Marsha Weiner

In Old to Joy, writer and illustrator Anita Crawford Clark has created a story that conveys how rich, sensory experiences punctuate childhood, imprint memories, and can yield profound insight, connection and meaning.

This book shares how “old” is a positive attribute.

In this atmospheric story, young Joy visits her Grandmama in an old house, on an old street, with old trees and all kinds of old things.

Joy joins Grandmama in a series of old-time experiences:

shelling black-eyed peas by hand instead of opening a can, and washing dishes in a sink of warm, sudsy water instead of using a machine.

art by Anita Crawford Clark

She exclaims “Whoa”, as she looks up and through the leafy branches unique to the majesty of very tall, old trees.

Art by Anita Crawford Clark



Grandmama receives a package from a dear childhood friend.

Learning that Grandmama had a childhood of her own prompts an insight that frequently stuns children.

“You were a little girl like me?” Joy blurts out. “So one day I’ll be old, too?”

It’s a valuable insight for healthy aging.




The package contains “the biggest hat ever” for Grandmama’s collection—eliciting another “Whoa” from a delighted Joy. She dances and poses with the variety of hats: big hats, Sunday morning hats, small hats, and hats for sad times.

Art by Anita Crawford Clark

Grandmama places one on Joy’s head. “This hat belonged to my mother. Now it belongs to her great-granddaughter.”

Joy is thrilled as she realizes the many ways old things and old ways bring joy. She experiences a deep connection and meaning.

Art by Anita Crawford Clark

Age Positive activities:

Help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.

Reflect • Share • Confirm • Affirm

Continuity, memory, identity and community give meaning to a life, and old things have the power to convey that meaning. Family heirlooms and personal mementos are not artifacts in museums. They help us share stories of love, loss, joy, strength and connection.

Children welcome feelings connected to their elders—the stories of old ways and to old things.

Given the acuity of a child’s sensory experiences, handling old things and experiencing those old ways consecrates a connection with the past. The hat Grandmama placed on Joy’s head embodied such a connection.

Consider giving a special family item to a young family member

—something that can’t be broken or lost. A button, a scarf, a glove… a hat.

Along with the stories and the sensory experience of old items, you’ll be giving the child a piece of their heritage. This contributes to resilience and self-respect. And you’ll imbue them with a stunning insight—they, too, may one day be fortunate to grow old.

*A review copy of this book was provided by                                                                                        the publisher at our request.

Find more Age Positive picture books here.

                                          Please note:

A is for Aging has a new newsletter that goes out 4-5x/year with links to blog posts & Age Positive resources. Sign up at top right of this page.

Recommended new book: There was an old woman: reflections on these strange, surprising, shining years.” by Andrea Carlisle. “Andrea’s glorious wry wit and brilliant wisdom have always lit up her readers and listeners so thoroughly that we stand in line waiting for her new book with greatest joy and gusto…” author Naomi Shibab Nye.

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9, guest posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ageism Awareness Day & Children’s Books

Hello friends, I’m so pleased to tell you about a recent collaboration with my local public library to raise awareness about both ageism and Age Positive picture books.

With Ageism Awareness Day looming on October 7, 2023 I reached out to my community library’s manager about a potential display of literature and picture books at the library. Fortunately she was interested, and we quickly agreed on sharing the information in a brief poster, along with a flyer/handout to give out.

She asked me to put picture books on hold using my library card. That way she was able to display some books, and have others ready for interested parents to check out.

See the American Society on Aging website for more information on their efforts around Ageism Awareness Day.

This website and “A is for Aging” blog are resources for Age Positive picture books minus age stereotypes. (See the “picture books” tab at or )

This display was a small start (something I’ve pondered before and not acted on), but I’m hoping others will partner with their public and school librarians on an ageism awareness display. Take a peek below at the information and resources we shared for Ageism Awareness Day.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions!


Our POSTER shared with the picture book display, text below:

Ageism Awareness Day is an opportunity to draw attention to the existence & impact of ageism in our society and reframe aging.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared ageism a threat to global health. The harmful effects of ageism begin early in childhood.

Ageism is defined as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudices (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.” (WHO)

  • Much of what we think we know about aging is a myth or stereotype. 
  • Our long term health and well-being will be greatly impacted by our attitudes to aging.
  • Research by Becca Levy Ph.D shows us that “ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age…” (WHO).

*Scan QR code to go to American Society on Aging’s ageism fact sheet.








Our flyer/handout with resources (shared in a 2 column format), text below:

Ageism Awareness Day is an opportunity to draw attention to the existence & impact of ageism in our society and reframe aging.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared ageism a threat to global health. The harmful effects of ageism begin early in childhood.

Ageism is defined as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudices (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.” (WHO)

  • Aging is living. Much of what we think we know about aging is a myth or stereotype. 
  • Our long term health and well-being will be greatly impacted by our attitudes to aging.
  • Research by Becca Levy Ph.D shows us that “ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age…” (WHO).

2nd column:

“Ageism and Age stereotypes are often internalized at a young age…children are familiar with age stereotypes, which are reinforced over their lifetimes.” (ASA)

Age Positive picture books can counteract age stereotypes.

Search out older characters that remind us all–celebrating many birthdays is a good thing!

Picture books with accurate and positive images of aging can change attitudes and show:

  • A diverse group of older adults with knowledge, inner strength & creativity
  • Skills & strengths created by years of experience
  • Valuable friendships between generations


How Old Am I? by Julie Pugeat

The Truth about Grandparents by Elina Ellis

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation

By Lindsey McDivitt

Just Like Grandma by Kim Rogers

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu

Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom

It Jes’ Happened by Don Tate

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

by Debbie Levy

Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper

Tofu Takes Time by Helen Wu

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

by Lindsey McDivitt

Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs by Linda Vander Heyden

A River of Words: The story of William Carlos Williams

by Jen Bryant

Northwoods Girl by Aimee Bissonette

Brand New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom



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Review: On the Trapline

On the Trapline

By David A. Robertson; illustrated by Julie Flett

Tundra Books, 2021 (ages 4-8)

Guest post by Marsha Weiner

Language, landscape and love are three themes throughout On the Trapline as we learn, along with our young narrator, about the traditions and lifestyle of his Swampy Cree forefathers of Manitoba.

Just about every page spread has Swampy Cree words; tansi means hi, wakomakanan means family, pahkwanikamik means tent, Moshom means grandpa.

The story crackles with the fresh observations of a young boy traveling to the trapline that his grandpa remembers from his youth—where he grew up living off the land.

The pace of the story is slow and measured, (pehkach means slowly, minwashin means beautiful) as we learn about hunting and fishing and living closely with family, “Moshom tells me that everybody in the family slept in one tent, so they could keep warm at night. I think it would’ve been nice, being together like that.”

As grandpa reminisces, values and sensibilities are transmitted across generations. They don’t feel sentimental. There’s no dogmatic teaching.  The boy and his Moshom fish, chop wood, pick berries—then share the fruits of their combined effort; the lessons are embodied—they are authentic.

Elders are the transmitters of traditions and rituals that link generations. Can the ethical and substantive value of a tradition or ritual survive once the performative action is “out of date?”

I don’t know.

But, for sure, this trip with Moshom to the trapline has left a long-lasting impression on his young grandson—one rooted in language, landscape and love.

Ekosani (thank you).

Age Positive activities–help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.


What traditions does your family follow? Were they handed down from elders? Have they changed over time, from generation to generation? Has your family created “new” traditions or rituals? What does your family celebrate?

A library book was reviewed for this post. Thank you for this insightful guest post about a beautiful picture book Marsha.

Find more Age Positive picture books about grandparents.

October 7, 2023 is Ageism Awareness Day (You can help by alerting your local librarians & sharing this website and “A is for Aging” blog! Suggest a display of Age Positive picture books and some simple signage. Include the barcode below.)

A is for Aging has a new newsletter put out 4-5x/year. (Includes links to blog post & Age Positive resources and news) Sign up at top right of this page.

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Review: Just Like Grandma

I hope all the grandparents enjoyed a Happy Grandparents Day 2023! I’m personally thrilled to be grandmother to a two year old book-loving grandson.

Just Like Grandma

byKim Rogers;

illustrations byJulie Flett

Heartdrum; 2023 (Ages 4-8)

Just Like Grandma might be the perfect book to gift grandparents and grandkids. It generates happiness and gratitude. It shows us the value of our Elders. And it challenges numerous ageist assumptions. It’s vital we expose children to age positivity for their own health and longevity.

The author skillfully keeps the focus on how young Becca and Grandma are alike, despite their large age difference. In a contemporary setting, the Native American duo bead moccasins, dance and paint.

Art by Julie Flett

“More than anything, Becca wants to be just like Grandma.”

Grandma is obviously creative, curious and active. Watching Becca play basketball, Grandma wants to learn and “sprints outside.”

“Grandma wants to be just like Becca.”


Art by Julie Flett

Just Like Grandma is a celebration of the treasured times and special relationships children have with grandparents. Julie Flett’s illustrations are mellow, yet bright—keeping our attention on the special intergenerational relationships. Grandma, Becca and Grandpa live together, and Grandpa nurtures the small family with home cooked meals.

It’s significant that Grandpa is included. The majority of picture books feature only one grandparent. While there are certainly single grandparents, numerous children do enjoy both grandma and grandpa. More books need to show grandparents enjoying loving relationships. Also, there’s an increasing number of grandchildren living in a grandparent’s home.



art by Julie Flett

Back matter also includes a valuable author’s note, glossary and a history of Native American beadwork. An activity guide for Just Like Grandma is provided by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

A bonus in the Age Positive picture book Just Like Grandma!

The icing on the delightful cake that is Just Like Grandma is an unusual letter to readers from Heartdrum editor Cynthia Leitich Smith.* Cynthia is also a New York Times bestselling children’s author. Here she writes wisely on the importance of role models, often older role models, in the lives of children.

“Whether you have Elders in your day-to-day life or only through books like this one. I hope they inspire you in wonderful ways.”

Cynthia also makes an often overlooked point—she highlights how different grandparents and older adults can be. “…when I was your age, my grandmothers—one stylish and strong-willed, the other homespun and good-humored—were among my life’s greatest blessings.”

*Cynthia Leitich Smith was an early champion of this “A is for Aging” blog and website—beginning at its inception ten years ago! I’m forever grateful to Cynthia for supporting the need for Age Positive books for kids. A heartfelt thank you also for publishing this important picture book.

Art by Julie Flett

Just Like Grandma challenges myths about longevity

Both text and art in Just Like Grandma leave out the maudlin tropes and stereotypes often associated with aging. All too often elements of disease and dementia are portrayed as integral to growing old. Multiple generations are frequently conflated into simply “old”. Old and sad, lonely, forgetful and the like.

Unfortunately, even children who admire their own grandparents speak negatively about growing older and about older people. Ageist beliefs are evident in pre-schoolers. In 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared ageism a global threat.

The truth about longevity? Age Wave’s latest study, The New Age of Aging, provides insights: “Older adults are at peak levels of happiness, and a large majority say the best time of their life is right now or in front of them.”

And “97% percent of adults 65+ agree that “it’s important to stay curious and be willing to learn new things throughout life.”

We Need Diverse Books

The groundbreaking nonprofit We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) is mentioned at the back of this book. The important goal of WNDB is “to create a world where every child can see themselves in the pages of a book.”

Just like racism, ageism steals away recognition of our abilities, individualism and awareness of our personal gifts and strengths.

The carefully chosen words and colorful illustrations of later life in children’s books affect kids’ health and longevity. It’s one of my dearest wishes that ageism in books for kids be included in discussions of diversity, and on the WNDB site.

Age stereotypes lead children to believe all older adults are the same—that their own future as older people is bleak. The reality is—we grow more diverse with age and experience.

***Age Positive activities help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.

An activity guide for Just Like Grandma is provided by the publisher. Discussion questions 3,4 and 8 would be especially helpful in guiding a conversation around older role models and longevity.

Good news on the ageism front!

New York schools roll out anti-ageism education in schools

A is for Aging has a new newsletter put out 4-5x/year. (Links to blog post & Age Positive resources and news) You can sign up at top right of this page.

—TAKE ACTION! October 7, 2023 is Ageism Awareness Day (You can help! Alert your local librarians & share this website and “A is for Aging” blog! Suggest a display of Age Positive picture books and some simple signage.

*Include the QR code below. If scanned by a cell phone camera it will direct readers to this website for resources. Simply right click and save the image.)


 –Find more Age Positive picture book resources.

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Review: Iris Afpel: A Little Golden Book Biography

by Deborah Blumenthal, Illus. by Ellen Surrey

Golden Books; 2023 (Ages 4-8)

Review by guest blogger Marsha Weiner.

(To combat ageism Marsha is developing a curriculum for young children using storybooks that feature positive, realistic images of older adults. Contact:


It’s a special joy to spotlight biographies of vital, active older adults. They are positive role models who embody a triumph over societal ageism.

Iris Apfel is described in this Golden Book biography as “a businesswoman, an interior designer and a fashion icon.” She is a great representation of a vital older adult whose life story continues to unfold at 101 years of age. The illustrator Ellen Surrey fills the book with vibrant colors so representative of Iris.

We learn of Iris’s early exposure to fashion and fabrics at her mother’s fashion boutique and her grandmother’s bags of fabric scraps.

Art by Ellen Surrey

She followed her interests and studied art in college. Iris’ interests propelled her and husband Carl to open a textile store. Their business allowed them to travel around the world—shopping for patterns and fabrics, and capturing design ideas.

Art by Ellen Surrey

At 84 years old Iris’s life took a turn. She became a fashion icon as the result of an unexpected exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “Rara Avis: Selections from the Iris Apfel Collection.” (Rara Avis means Rare Bird). It celebrated her unique fashion style—large eyeglasses, lots of bracelets and necklaces and mixtures of patterns and textures that ordinarily would not seem to “go together.”

Art by Ellen Surrey

As author Deborah Blumenthal tells us, “age never stopped Iris. “At 90 years old Iris launched a cosmetics company. At age 96, Mattel announced an Iris Barbie doll in her honor and then, at age 97 Iris signed a modeling contract. Somewhere along the way a film was made about her life. At the time of this review Iris is 101.

*See anti-ageism activity at bottom (Art by Ellen Surrey)

Along with the inspiring image of an older person unafraid of change, Iris’s story has added value for young children. In this era riddled with the perils of social media, especially for preteen and teenage girls, Iris offers a vibrant alternative – the value of cultivating a personal style. She would encourage them to listen to themselves.

Young children know what they like. Some wear the same sparkly purple tutu until the sparkle is gone and the tulle shredded, or they wear a certain pair of pants until threadbare.

I once had a conversation with an eight-year-old girl in an unusual, but compelling outfit. She proudly announced, “It’s my logo!”


Then somewhere along the way the advertisers and influencers, the bullies and the mean girls gain power and that confidence of knowing what one likes, a sense of one’s own style gets eclipsed.

And to inspire YOU, check out Advanced Style photographer and author Ari Seth Cohen’s project. Ari  says, “I feature people who live full creative lives. Check out his blog and books. There’s also a coloring book of Advanced Style.

Age Positive activities help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.

From Marsha:


Young children need us to affirm their developing sense of themselves.

Provide swatches of cloth of different colors and patterns. Mix and match till the child finds what they like, as Iris did as a young child. Allow them to design their own color pallet. What are their colors? Encourage power in that agency – AT ANY AGE!

From Lindsey: The picture book Iris Apfel shows the amazing potential for creativity and change over a long life. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about ageism with kids.

When Iris turns 100, we read—“But Iris doesn’t act old. She likes to go out and have fun. She describes herself as the world’s oldest living teenager.”

The word “old” used casually (as it often is), implies many stereotypes commonly associated with older adults. It is internalized ageism that forces us to see an entire cohort of people as identical—their strengths, individuality, and capabilities fading from view.

Older people, such as Iris, frequently feel pressure from society to differentiate themselves from the stereotypes—in words and actions.

Anti-ageism activity: ask a child—what do you think “acting old” means? Then gently challenge the stereotypes such as grumpy, witchy, slow, sad, forgetful, and sick, even kind and wise. Ask—are all older people like that? Point out that Alzheimer’s is a disease. Age is a continuum—no one is just young or just old.

Discuss the variety of people they know over sixty. Older adults are even more diverse than younger people. Rich life experiences enhance a diversity of abilities, talents and interests.

What do many people believe falsely about all children? Are all kids a certain age the same?

Find more Age Positive picture books to discuss.

Each Friday author Susanna Hill shares picture books at her blog PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Posted in Activities and Resources, Book Reviews for Ages 3-6 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Review: Iris Afpel: A Little Golden Book Biography

Review: The Big Bath House

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Gracey Zhang

Random House Children’s Books; 2021 (Ages 4-8)

Guest Blogger Marsha Weiner shares an insightful book review and related Age Positive activity for children. Many thanks Marsha!

Traditions bind us together. Whether great or small traditions present children with opportunities to observe the older adults in their lives as they begin to absorb patterns which form their own behavior.

Consider even the idiosyncratic “private” jokes hatched amongst family members, friends or with colleagues to consecrate shared experiences, as well as the ritualized civic and religious events people participate in throughout a year.

The Big Bath House highlights family traditions in Japan as observed by a child. It’s delightfully presented and informs a positive, realistic image of older relatives.

Art by Gracey Zhang

You may not be familiar with the Japanese Bath House. It’s a communal experience of cleaning and relaxing in steamy hot water, with friends, neighbors and family, while unashamedly nude. (Women and men used to take to the baths together, now most baths are segregated by gender.)

In the story a young girl travels with her mother to visit the mother’s birthplace in Japan. All the characters are female; the young girl, her mother, the girl’s baachan, (grandmother short for Oba-chan) and the girl’s aunties and cousins.

Art by Gracey Zhang

Western shoes are exchanged for geta (a Japanese wooden sandal), and western clothes are changed for yukata (a light cotton kimono worn during the summer or after a bath.)

The group goes to the bath house with smiles on their faces as if anticipating the communal relaxation they know is about to wash over them; “To the bath that is steaming. To your cousins, all beaming.”

Art by Gracey Zhang

This particular bath house is shown to be in a garden with birds and plants. The illustrations show the traditional low benches women sit on as they scrub themselves and one another, before they enter the big bath.

“You- your baachan, aunties, and cousins will slip into the big bath. A chorus of one long breath—Ahhhhh.”

Art by Gracey Zhang

It’s enviable—the comfort of being one amongst all types of bodies, all shapes and sizes reflecting the spectrum of the lifecycle. As observed by the young narrator, “Newly sprouting, gangly bodies, your saggy, shapely, jiggly bodies, your cozy, creased, ancient bodies. Beautiful bodies.” Seems so natural and healthful.

Art by Gracey Zhang

It’s not a big leap to reflect on the one of the original designated “Blue Zones” of longevity and health–Okinawa, Japan. You can learn more about the habits of the world’s longest lived people in the well-researched books of author Dan Buettner.

The research highlights habits including ikigai, the belief in a driving life force, as well as to moai, a powerful strong social network  amongst women friends. Moai is forged in childhood and maintained until death—cultivated though a lifetime of shared traditions and rituals including going to the bath house.


Enjoy some vicarious relaxation just by reading The Big Bath House.


Age Positive activities help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.


In the West reams of data articulate the value of relaxation. It reduces stress, increases brain function, boost immune function and more.

Are there traditions or opportunities in your life to share with young people that cultivate relaxation in a non-judgmental environment? Different from bonding while playing a sport together, or a video game, but some healthful activity which benefits all ages across the generations. One that supports relaxing together with joy, love and peace of mind.

Find other Age Positive picture books that share relaxing traditions:

A Morning with Grandpa

Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack

Jingle Dancer

Berry Song

Ten Ways to Hear Snow

Betsy’s Day at the Game

Tofu Takes Time

Author Susanna Hill shares picture books at her blog  PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY.

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Keeper of Wild Words

By Brooke Smith, illus. by Madeline Kloepper

 Chronicle Books 2020; Ages 5-8

Guest blogger Marsha Weiner shares an insightful book review and a related Age Positive activity for kids. Take it away Marsha!

Author Brooke Smith shares the impetus for writing The Keeper of Wild Words in her author’s note. She was “angry, disillusioned and ultimately very sad” on learning that the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed over 100 natural words from its pages. AND replaced them with words such as; analog, cautionary tale, vandalism, voicemail….You get the picture!

In an effort of sweet revenge we get The Keeper of Wild Words.

The older person in the story is a writer—a grandmother named Mimi. She is a curious naturalist with a desire to capture “wild words”—words of the natural world, so they do not fall out of use, and disappear.

Mimi has a list of wild words which she shares with her visiting granddaughter Brook, along with a Mission, “I need someone to keep them safe, to help remember them. I need you to be my Keeper, The Keeper of the Wild Words.”

Brook arrived at Mimi’s with a problem, she must select “one special thing to share” at her upcoming first day of school. But that problem evaporated with the importance of the Mission to capture wild words.

With list in hand the two set out:

“From sunup to sundown, we’ll walk and run and walk again, sit and wait, listen and touch, until we find every word on the list. Or every word finds us.”

Brook and Mimi go through meadows, around a pond and into a forest, capturing a dictionary worth of wild words on their list; buttercups, dandelion, porcupine.

Brook comes up with her own wild word, bird cloud, to describe a flock of starlings!

The relationship between grandmother Mimi and her granddaughter Brook reminds us of a fundamental principle that binds the generations; young people often follow what their elders love.

Mimi’s loose hair, flowing clothes, easy gait and genuine love of interacting with the sensory-rich natural world is a model Brook readily follows. And a terrific non-stereotypical illustration of a grandmother.

There’s an ease to their relationship as Brook absorbs her grandmother’s love and respect for the natural world, along with a gentle curiosity. Brooke’s courage grows too.

“Finally they wandered over to the dense, dark woods. Brook had always been a little afraid of the forest, but now part of her was wild, and she couldn’t wait.”

Their day-long hike capturing wild words ends at the edge of a stream—which Brook learns is her namesake, “You were named after this tiny stream that your mother always cherished.”

Young Brook is transformed by their adventure. Fulfilling the Mission, Brook also realizes her problem has been solved—she has a real treasure to share at her first day of school- a list of wild words.

Age Positive activities help children learn about aging, to recognize age stereotypes and to anticipate late life with joy.


You don’t have to be a grandparent to share what you love with young people. Do not hesitate! Whether it’s listening to a treasured form of music, studying maps, repairing mechanical toys children want to experience with you what brings  you joy and meaning.

Thank you for your excellent guest post Marsha!

Find other picture books where grandparents share what they love with their grandchildren. Click on the titles below for more information:

Ten Beautiful Things

Kiyoshi’s Walk

The Ocean Calls

Abuelita & I Make Flan

Gus & Me

Northwoods Girl

Betsy’s Day at the Game

Nana in the City

This post is part of Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Posted in Activities and Resources, Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9, guest posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments