North Woods Girl

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.

She’s bony.

And she dresses in Grandpa’s old flannel shirts.”

Themesadventure, 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.

ph_aimee_300dpiX2inAuthor 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.

bk_northwoodsgirlThe 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).

Perfect-Pic-Book-BadgeFind more fabulous picture books at Perfect Picture Books Friday!

Images use with permission. Review copy from the publisher.

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