By Aimee Bissonette; illustrated by Claudia McGehee
Minnesota Historical Society Press 2015. Fiction, ages 3-7
North Woods Girl opens—
“My grandma says she’s not a good-looking woman.
I don’t know. She looks pretty good to me.
She is not like other grandmas, it’s true.
And she dresses in Grandpa’s old flannel shirts.”
Themes—adventure, aging, be yourself, grandparents, habitat, independence, nature, role models
Synopsis—a young girl relishes hikes with her north woods grandma in every season. They fully appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors and the grand-daughter hopes to be just like her grandma someday.
Open this beautiful picture book and I swear the scent of pine wafts into the room. As a north woods girl myself, first Minnesota, now Michigan, both the words and gorgeous scratchboard art resonate.
Author Aimee Bissonette spends endless hours on Lake Superior and it shows. She knows the wildlife—including the “buffleheads and teals, goldeneyes and mergansers” (all water fowl, by the way). She shares the sounds, like “boots crunching and squeaking in the cold snow.” Winter is the favorite season for this girl and grandma.
The author also knows the people of the north woods. “…when Grandma tucks her pants into her over-sized boots and grabs her walking stick, I run to catch up.”
We know all older people are different, in actual fact, older adults become more diverse with time. Yet many books for kids perpetuate frail, forgetful, grumpy and dependent.
No age stereotypes here. This grandmother strides along hiking paths and despite being widowed and living alone in the woods, she is determined to stay there.
I love how this picture book tackles the topic— the text reassures us that Grandma has supportive neighbors, but affirms her strength and individuality.
“Mom wants Grandma to move to the city with us. She worries about Grandma living alone in the woods. But what would happen if we took that north woods girl away from her woods?”
Grandma in the gray-toned city illustrated shows us—nothing good.
Did you know that “perhaps surprisingly, active health span is increasing faster than total life span”? “More people are living longer and healthier, while avoiding or delaying severe disability.” Quote from the book Aging Our Way: Lessons for Living from 85 and Beyond—just added to my Resources page.
The grandma in North Woods Girl exemplifies the “spirit of prudence and persistence, coupled with meaningful social connections, (that) are the factors that seem to contribute to health and longevity” according to researchers Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin.
Children today can learn from older generations. As the author shares in her blog, “…time spent in nature is therapeutic. It has a positive, documented effect on our mental and physical well-being.” (read more in the book Last Child in the Woods by author Richard Louv)
The unique and lovely illustrations by Claudia McGehee will inspire you. So don’t let the the coming snow stop you, wrap a warm scarf and tuck your hands into cozy mittens.
Then head out with a child in hand. Are you with me?
Kids often wonder how animals survive harsh winters. Read these picture books for fascinating insights.
A Warm Winter Tail by Carrie Pearson—animals question how humans stay warm and reveal their own secrets.
Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart—reveals what creatures are doing under those piles of snow .
Find terrific snow-related kid’s activities (paper snowflakes to igloos) and also 10 children’s books about snow here, including the amazing Snowflake Bentley.
Read about more independent, adventurous older women–
—An article about Great Old Broads for Wilderness aged 36-82
—More picture books about older women role models
—my own Great Lakes Review article inspired by memories of my mother and our favorite spot on Lake Superior (be warned—a tiny bit sentimental).
Find more fabulous picture books at Perfect Picture Books Friday!
Images use with permission. Review copy from the publisher.
What a cool story – and I love the illustrations. And I especially love flannel shirts! Thanks for sharing this treasure.
Thank you Sue for the comment. I concur, that breaking stereotypes of older adults is an important picture book topic. I’m glad our flannel shirt wearing independent Grandma resonated!
Your independent Grandma is hitting home with so many people Claudia–congrats on a lovely, lovely picture book to you and Aimee!
This book has it all doesn’t it Sue! Thanks for commenting.
Thanks for sharing a PB that respects grandparents and nature. I agree that “older adults become more diverse with time.”
Yes!I think its because as we grow older, we grow bolder also, and more likely to follow our true interests don’t you?
This sounds lovely! I especially like that it’s about a grandmother!
And such a strong independent grandma!
What an interesting perspective reviewing picture books. I have looked specifically for books featuring adults, but will now have another aspect to look for – thanks! Love Claudia’s artwork!
Thanks Julie! So glad you found us at A is for Aging! I also adore Claudia’s art, and today I’m enjoying fresh snow outdoors!
Thanks Julie! I know, it’s a great subject to keep an eye out for! I’m really happy to see this review.
This is perfect for my kids’ grandma. Besides the gorgeous illustrations, those opening lines are spot on. Thanks!
I have a feeling lots of grandmas will be gifted this special picture book! Thanks Joanne.
What a beautiful way to illustrate a snowy forest 🙂
Claudia’s unique illustrations are amazing, I agree Christie! Thanks for commenting!
Oh my goodness…this is the PERFECT picture book…I must get this because I hike in the woods with my grandson…we pull our socks up over the cuffs of our pants so little ticks and other buggies can’t crawl up…and we take turns leading and following. I’m in love with this one! Thank you so much, Lindsay. And have a Happy Thanksgiving in your North Woods. 🙂
What a fun grandmother you must be Vivian! I’m sure your grandson loves all those adventures in the woods! Happy Thanksgiving to you also!
The thought of opening this book and smelling pine is quite the invitation. And then…the illustration you included looks like an engraving that has me anxious to see more.
What I love is the personality of the grandmother. She reminds me strongly of my own mother. Mom loved the ten forested acres our home sat on. If she wasn’t baking in the kitchen, it was a sure bet we’d find her keeping the nature trails open, feeding the deer, or picking berries for dessert. Thank you for sharing this marvelous book for PPBF.
I think I would have enjoyed your mom Leslie! How lucky you were!
It’s nice to have the reminder of another type of grandparent. I bet city kids would be impressed!
I think you are so right Wendy!
This is a lovely fun story with grandkids with grandparents. Love that. There is nothing like spending the day with a grandparent. Thanks for sharing this unique story Lindsay.
It truly is fun and unique! Thanks for commenting Diane.