How Old Am I? Picture Book Review

Finally—a Children’s Book about Aging!

This is a fascinating and important picture book. I highly recommend How Old Am I?  and commend the publisher, author Julie Pugeat, and illustrator–photographer JR.

It’s not easy convincing publishers that children are interested in late life. (They are.) Or that aging does not equate with decline, disease and death. But childhood is brief and we are helping to form the adults and older adults they will become. Books like this actually promote health and longevity as kids grow into adults and then older adults.

How Old Am I? 1-100 Faces From Around the World was published in May 2021 by Phaidon Books, a leading publisher of books in the visual arts, food, and children’s markets with headquarters in London and New York. 100 people from 100 different countries were interviewed and profiled.

Below is an excerpt of an excellent review of How Old Am I? at “This Age Thing“:

“A CHILDREN’S BOOK HAS COME ALONG THAT MANAGES TO REJOICE IN ONE OF THE MOST MALIGNED DIFFERENCES BETWEEN US—OUR AGE.

How Old Am I? celebrates time passing in its simplest form, as each page turns, we journey through and with the faces and lives of 100 people aged from 1-100….

How Old Am I? is a collaboration between iconic photographer, artist and disruptor JR, and Julie Pugeat, his Studio Director.

This is their second book together, the first, 2019’s ‘Wrinkles’ was an equally loving celebration of the power and the joy we can share in the story of growing older.”

(This Age Thing is a United Kingdom website celebrating our longer lives and striving to change the negative narrative around aging.)

And the New York Journal of Books says…

“The high happy factor brings another consistency to this project. Through that emotional consistency there is no judgement in the age. It’s just a number. Over the years, as faces age, they change. That is just what happens. This book connects the changes to the number.”

You can read their full reviews at the links above, BUT BE SURE to come back and learn…

How has this ground-breaking book about aging been received in the children’s literature world?

 

From Betsy Bird , a highly regarded librarian, author and kidlit blogger at Fuse Eight.

Here’s what Betsy had to say—in her 2021 list of non-fiction books for kids:

“…kids will delight in a book that shows a wide swath of humanity, what makes us different, and what makes us the same. A clever little dingus of a book.

Kirkus, I noticed, got very wrapped up on whom precisely this book is for. It said it spread itself too thin by trying to be for everyone. I couldn’t disagree more.

I think this book does have a bit for a wide range of different ages, but whoever said that only babies like looking at human faces?”

Read Betsy Bird’s complete review; scroll down about halfway down her list to find it.

(The “Kirkus” Betsy Bird refers to is Kirkus Reviews, providing well-regarded pre-publication reviews for readers and industry leaders.)

An excerpt from the Kirkus review of How Old Am I?:

“The book is beautiful and borders on the profound (especially for older caregivers), but the question remains: Who is this for? Babies obsessed with faces may love the portraits; toddlers may learn numbers, colors, etc.; older readers may learn some geography—all ages get a little, but is it enough?…By providing a little for everyone, the book may spread itself too thin. (Picture book. All ages)” You can read the complete Kirkus review here.

Addressing age in children’s books is critically important

Personally, I believe the children’s literature world is missing the point. This is the first book for children to tackle this important topic in thirty years, since What It’s Like to Be Old (1991).

1991. Out of print.

In 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared ageism a global threat. It matters greatly if we, the adults, avoid talking about growing older or buy into stereotypes.

And it matters if children’s picture books present older characters as negative stereotypes and equate the aging process with decline and death. Those carefully chosen words and colorful illustrations of later life are helping to create the older adults that children will become.

Stereotypes make us believe all older adults are the same. The reality is—we grow more diverse with age and experience.

Age Positive picture books can counteract the age stereotypes kids take in daily from many sources. (Learn more about ageism in my earlier blog post.)

Learn more about the Inside Out project , see examples and watch a fascinating interview of artist/photographer/disruptor JR by the publisher at Phaidon Books on YouTube.

How can YOU help fight ageism?

  • Buy a copy. How Old Am I? is available wherever good books are sold. You can raise awareness by ordering a copy from your local independent bookstore. Bookshop.org also supports indie bookshops.

 

  • Post a review of How Old Am I? on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Goodreads online. This informs others of the issues and helps a book’s sales. (Strangely, the current reviews on Amazon are very focused on geography & culture…)

 

 

  • Share this website with teachers, librarians, bookstores, parents, grandparents and others.

 

How Old Am ? is part of a regular roundup of perfect picture books at Perfect Picture Book Fridays on Susanna Leonard Hill’s  website. Find more at her blog here.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9, Especially For Teachers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How Old Am I? Picture Book Review

  1. This is the first time I’ve seen age addressed with children in a book — and it should be! I like that it counteracts the age stereotypes for children. Look forward to checking this book out. I have always identified with younger people and all of my mentors were what I thought of as of the “wise women’ in my life. Now I play that role.

    • lindseymcd says:

      Thanks for your comment Patricia! So interesting how quickly we pass from one life stage to another. I’m sure you are a terrific mentor.

  2. Jilanne F Hoffmann says:

    Love this! The excerpts you provided really show how it has broad appeal. And I think you are spot on about Kirkus. The reviewer missed the point. Great review!

  3. Andrea Mack says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I would love to have this in my collection to bring out when my students ask, “How old are you?” They are fascinated with ages. This one sounds like a keeper for any age level. I’m going to be looking for it!

    • lindseymcd says:

      That’s great to hear Andrea! I love to think of your students delving into this fantastic book. Thanks for commenting!

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