I’m perpetually on the prowl for positive aging picture books, but I’ve recently discovered that many, even some on my resource list, are living only in university libraries, not public libraries. I certainly hope those twenty somethings at college are avidly reading them, but I suspect it is the children’s lit professors and their students.
Last week I staggered home from my local public library lugging two heavy bags. “Getting my money’s worth” is what I often proclaim, for despite the frequent fines I pay for not renewing quickly enough—there are few bargains better than a library.
(Don’t forget—when you click on a book title on the Intergenerational Resources page of my website it will take you to World Cat—telling you which libraries near you have the book.)
Not all the books made the cut, but today, a brief shout-out for a few of my recent public library finds deserving a thumbs up.
These three all touch on romantic love in late life—nothing too racy—these are books for kids, but messages to warm your heart.
From the very top of this stack—Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest for ages 6-9 (Candlewick 2004.) Mr. Baker is 100 years old and learning to read. He and a young neighbor boy, Harry, ride the school bus together and all the kids clamor for Mr. Baker to sit with them. The sweet intergenerational friendship and also the long-standing love between Mr. Baker and his wife are highlighted—a real rarity in kidlit. Mr. and Mrs. B. dance together on the front porch for a bemused young Harry.
A publisher’s note encourages parents and teachers to use the book as a jumping off point for discussions with children about friendship, Black History month and multi-culturalism.
I am looking forward to the time when publishers suggest discussions about normal aging and older role models. Someday!
Along with other honors, Mr. George Baker was a Reading Rainbow selection. I miss the days of listening to LeVar Burton share books on TV with my small kids—miss the small kids too actually, but recently I discovered the Reading Rainbow website and blog. As LeVar Burton used to say, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.” Take a peek.
Someone for Mr. Sussman by Patricia Polacco actually acknowledges older adults’ interest in romantic love. (Ages 6-9, Philomel 2008.) It is also unusual in featuring a grade-school age grandson hanging out with his interesting grandmother—and why not?
Grandma is a Jewish matchmaker who changes herself several times over attempting to please Mr. Sussman—and as was pointed out to me by one of my study groups—not the best feminist message perhaps. But eventually she does send him packing and when he returns they find love together.
Just the kind of subtle message we want children to get—late life holds many surprises! See an earlier post regarding author Patricia Polacco and find her Mrs. Katz and Tush on the resource list.
Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly, one of the popular series filled with “fancy” words by Jane O’Connor, deserves recognition for showcasing the specialness of young Nancy’s grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.
She is heartbroken to miss the fanciest birthday party ever, butterfly themed for her friend Bree, but it falls on the same day as the big anniversary party. Once there, Nancy is “ecstatic” to be at the “extraordinary” night. (Ages 3-6. Harper Collins 2008.)
(The books above appear on the Intergenerational Resources list.)
By the way, there is a lovely picture book/gift book available actually geared to older adults. The tender rhymes of Older Love by Warren Hanson share the pleasures of a long marriage (Waldman House Press, an imprint of Tristan Publishing, 1999.)
Here’s hoping your public library will have the books reviewed here. If not, try asking your librarians to purchase them, or others on the list. It’s a little known fact that most librarians welcome your suggestions.
No doubt few have intergenerational education and the need for older adult role models on their radar for young children just yet, but a little nudge in that direction might be all it takes. It’s definitely on my “to-do” list.
Share our intergenerational reading project and this website—perhaps make a plan to celebrate Grandparent’s Day in September with a showcase of positive aging kid’s books?