Two lovely new picture books subtly address loneliness, compassion, wisdom, creativity and the beauty surrounding us. These Age Positive picture books, Ten Beautiful Things and Kiyoshi’s Walk, do this in such an exceptional way that both adults and children will come away with renewed appreciation for the poetry to be found in ordinary living, whether they live in rural settings or in a city.
In Ten Beautiful Things “Lily and her grandmother search for ten beautiful things as they take a long car ride to Iowa and Lily’s new home with Gran. At first, Lily sees nothing beautiful in the April slush and cloudy sky.
Soon though, Lily can see beauty in unexpected places, from the smell of spring mud to a cloud shaped like a swan to a dilapidated barn. A furious rainstorm mirrors Lily’s anxiety, but as it clears Lily discovers the tenth beautiful thing: Lily and Gran and their love for each other.
Ten Beautiful Things leaves the exact cause of Lily’s move ambiguous, making it perfect for anyone helping a child navigate change, whether it be the loss of a parent, entering or leaving a foster home, or moving.” (Book description at Bookshop.org)
Lee & Low Books Inc.; 2021
Kiyoshi’s Walk: “After Kiyoshi watches his grandfather, Eto, compose his delicate haiku, he wonders out loud: “Where do poems come from?”
His grandfather answers by taking him on a walk through their city, where they see a cat perched on a hill of oranges; hear the fluttering of wings; imagine what’s behind a tall wall; and discuss their walk, with each incident inspiring a wonderful new haiku from Eto.
As Kiyoshi discovers that poems come from the way the world outside of us meets the world within each of us, he also finds the courage to write a haiku of his own.” (Book description from Lee & Low Books)
Kiyoshi, and also Lily in Ten Beautiful Things learn the comfort found just being with a wise, compassionate grandparent. Both also learn to observe the world carefully, looking for beauty and finding it.
As evening shadows fall, the day cools and other children leave the park, Kiyoshi feels lonely.
“They sat for a moment in silence.
‘May I write a poem?’ Kiyoshi asked
Kiyoshi took a deep breath and wrote:
In the cool spring night
The wind’s dance makes me shiver.
Your voice keeps me warm.
Eto read his grandson’s poem. He smiled.” (Text by Mark Karlins; Kiyoshi’s Walk)
In Ten Beautiful Things, Lily is lonely too, and obviously coping with loss. But she also feels the special accepting warmth of a grandparent’s love.
“Gram came around with the umbrella,
and Lily stepped out of the car.
‘We’re ten,’ Gram said.
Lily sank into her familiar hug.
None of this was easy.
Maybe it would never be easy.
But she belonged with Gram now.
She belonged here now.” (Text by Molly Beth Griffin; Ten Beautiful Things)
A theme of creativity in later life ties these two Age Positive picture books together in my mind. The kind of creativity that enables the “secret of living with one’s entire being.” The kind of creativity that comes with living many years.
Gene Cohen, M.D. discusses this “secret” extensively in his book The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life. “It is the creativity that empowers us…and that enable us to participate in life as a journey of exploration, discovery, and self-expression,” he states.
“It can occur at any age and under any circumstances, but the richness of experience that age provides us magnifies the possibilities tremendously,” adds Dr. Cohen. “The unique combination of creativity and life experience creates a dynamic dimension for inner growth with aging.”
As author Mark Karlins shares in his note at the end of Kiyoshi’s Walk:
“If we look with a poet’s eye, everything becomes poetry.”
Older adults can often show kids how to live fully while coping with losses in life. How to cope daily with small stresses and the subtle negative feelings that change our moods. And how to reach for happiness.
Read more on late life happiness.
Activity idea: Why not use these two amazing picture books to discuss this question with children—how did this grandmother and this grandfather gain the knowledge, the compassion and the ability to see the beauty in everything around them?
(Answer: Years of living. Years of observing the world. Years of practice. Years of experience.)
I reviewed my own copy of Ten Beautiful Things and a library copy of Kiyoshi’s Walk.
This review is part of Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Hill’s blog. Find more great books there!