By Kathryn England; illus. by Richard McFarland
Flashlight Press 2007. (Ages 5-8)
I really wish that my name was listed as author of this book. After all I’ve written about wrinkles before. I’ve thought of them as mostly smile lines more than once (except for the tiny one next to my right eyebrow). I’ve even linked one or two to a happy life event.
But I did not pen this great little book, Kathryn England did. And I’m happy to report, she did a terrific job!
This picture book presents aging and wrinkles as not only entirely natural, but a positive development.
“Why doesn’t your skin fit you any more, Granddad?” Lucy asked. “It’s all crinkly!”
Granddad threw back his head and laughed. “Those crinkles are called wrinkles,” he said. “I have lived a very long time and I have wrinkles from smiling so often.”
Contrast this Granddad’s cheerful response with sadly common answers such as, “I’ve spent too much time in the sun,” or “that’s what happens when you get old,” or “Oh well, I’m old and ugly now.” (Yes, I’ve heard that last one.)
Apologies! For a natural process that will affect—Every. Single. One of us.
Author Kathryn England and illustrator Richard McFarland are both grandparents, and I suspect they have personally fielded that question—it’s handled here at the perfect level for a young child. The lovely illustrations are lit by the obvious affection and closeness between Lucy and her Granddad. In addition, we see Granddad changing over the years in happy flashbacks.
When Lucy points and asks specifically just what created each line, we’re treated to a warm memory of a time in his past. We hear of marriage to her Grandma, her mother’s birth, several fun memories of Mommy’s childhood, and her parents’ wedding. The sense is strong of a long life well lived, the joyful times highlighted for Lucy.
Naturally the “two really, really big ones,” the deep lines alongside his mouth, are the most important—they’re from the day Lucy herself was born. I really love that the author takes it one step further—
“Oh,” said Lucy, smiling a huge smile. And at the corners of her mouth appeared two little wrinkles, just like Granddad’s.”
On the very last page are seven vignettes of Granddad, all over his adult years—that is so unusual. We often seem to jump from middle age to old old age. (No doubt he can laugh at himself looking just a bit like Elvis—back in the sixties I suspect.)
Grandfather’s Wrinkles shares a powerful message of positive aging. Our attitudes to aging will affect both health and our happiness as we grow older, and we all know kids look to the adults in their lives when forming those attitudes. This is a lovely book for grandparents and grandchildren to read together (and parents too).
Amy Gutman writes in The Washington Post, “We’re living longer than ever before. In the 20th century, Americans gained a staggering 30 years of life expectancy, thanks to advances in nutrition, public health and medicine.” Yet, rounding a personal new decade we often act as if the end is at hand.
Ms. Gutman asks why we so often “posit death as the singular focus of the years after middle age…Aging is a lifelong process, and the experience of being an ‘older adult’ is one that, for most of us, is likely to last decades.”
The reality of those extra years? They are most often a vital and happy time of life. Yes, HAPPY.
Have I told you? I’ve figured out why older people are so often stereotyped as “grumpy”! And it’s not because they’re grumpy.
It’s all the fault of gravity actually. When our older faces are in repose (as in not actually smiling) gravity pulls our faces down into that stern look—the one I recall that disturbed me as a child gazing at my grandmother’s much loved face at rest. There’s a lesson for kids and adults. Gravity. I know, I’m not the first, but I say, all the more reason to smile more.
More frequent smiling must be at least part of the reason older adults are happier than those younger I’ve decided. (After all, researchers have found the act of smiling actually improves your mood.) Well then! I’ve got it all figured out!
For more on happiness in late life–watch a TED Talk by researcher Laura Carstensen, Stanford University.
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Images and review copy courtesy from Flashlight Press.