Guest blogger Marsha Weiner shares two picture books with us in a thought provoking post with a theme of aging—Old Rock (is not boring) and Bertolt. She also shares Age Positive Activities to Explore with Children.
Marsha is creating a curriculum for young children using picture books to support positive attitudes and beliefs about aging with kids. For more information please contact Marsha Weiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read Marsha’s book reviews below:
I’m discovering books where the aged character is an element of nature. These stories are refreshing and they provide a path for lively discussion around aging.
They build on the intuitive connection many young children feel with the natural world.
Mentioning a child’s intuitive connection with the natural world may invoke groans and furrowed brows—thinking some hackneyed sense of childhood innocence is being encouraged.
Consider that an intuitive connection with the natural world is the result of 3.8 billion years of microbes, and the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms patiently figuring out how to flourish on Earth.
Sophisticated inquiries into biological evolution support the insightful hypothesis of biophilia. Biophilia endorses “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.”
This intuitive seeking can connect children to an enhanced understanding of the flourishing of life. It’s expressed at each stage of our lifecycle—with a renewed appreciation of that which is lucky enough to be “old.”
G.P. Putman’s Sons, 2020
Synopsis: Old Rock has been sitting in the same spot in the pine forest for years & years. Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine, and Hummingbird think that must be boring, but they’re in for a surprise.
At the opening of Old Rock (is not boring) we meet members of the animal and vegetable kingdoms surrounding Old Rock. They feel sorry for Old Rock and express their sadness that this member of the mineral kingdom cannot fly, or experience thrilling and different views of the landscape, or dance in the wind.
Old Rock’s existence appears to them to be stagnant and dull.
As Hummingbird, Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine and others express their negative assumptions, Old Rock has a story to tell—charting the geological history of the planet going back over a billion years;
–being forged by extreme heat, ejected into flight by volcano eruption, meeting various creatures great and small, traveling on glacial streams, and more.
Old Rock transmutes assumptions and negative disregard for being “old” into curiosity and appreciation for all Old Rock has experienced, continues to witness and joyfully shares.
The story ends with an agreement amongst all the kingdoms; animal, vegetable and mineral:
Old Rock has done a lot of living and is “not boring at all.”
Age Positive Activities OBSERVE. CONTEMPLATE. NARRATE
- Take a walk around the neighborhood
–Choose an element of nature; a tree, rock, a flower, a bush
–Write and illustrate stories, poems, songs about what that element of nature has “seen” and “sees” in the child’s neighborhood;
–Ask what might nature witness; a police car zooming by, an ambulance going to the hospital, stores change, children go to school, busses driving by, a dog taking a leak.
–If the child lives in an urban setting; observe, contemplate and narrate an old building.
- Share pictures of young and old people of different cultures.
DISCUSS: Who has more memories to share? What stories do you have to share? Do you think old rocks are boring?
Translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
Enchanted Lion Books; 2017
Synopsis: touching story about a boy whose best friend is an oak tree named Bertolt.
The narrator of Bertolt is a young child who has lost a mitten. The child goes to the Lost & Found at school and failing to find the mitten’s mate, grabs a mitten of a different color.
Getting teased for wearing a mismatched pair of mittens is not a problem.
Our childish narrator does not care; this child is a self-described loner.
Instead of fishing or playing sports or running around with others, our narrator bakes alone and skateboards solo. For connection the child has a tree.
“I love doing lots of things by myself, but I love climbing my tree best of all.”
The child named his tree, an old oak, Bertolt.
A neighboring old oak was recently cut down, and the rings of the trunk revealed that tree was 172 years old. Bertolt is much bigger, so our narrator proclaims, “He must be at least 500 years old.”
We then see all the adventures the child has enjoyed with Bertolt throughout the years.
“I love everything about Bertolt.” Climbing Bertolt is “like climbing a secret ladder.”
Spring arrives and as trees unfurl with a new season of blooms, Bertolt remains bare.
The child realizes Bertolt has died but is befuddled. “I know what to do if a cat or a bird dies. But what should I do for Bertolt?”
“I have to do something before Bertolt is turned into firewood, furniture or toothpicks. I think I have an idea.”
The story then comes full circle.
The child bicycles back to the school Lost & Found and takes the box of mismatched mittens, then drives by an unsuspecting mom and swipes her bag of clothes pins.
Returning to Bertolt the child clips the varied mittens onto Bertolt’s bare branches—thus creating a colorful celebration of love while recognizing the grief of losing the beloved tree.
Age Positive Activities DISCUSS & CREATE
–Why did the child give the tree a name? Describe the child’s relationship to Bertolt.
–How do you feel when you are among tall, old trees? (Show images of a young sapling next to images of old trees.)
Could the child play in the sapling like he played in Bertolt?
–Write a song to sing to old trees.
–Write a letter to the tree Bertolt.
Many thanks for your guest post Marsha!
***Find more picture book reviews by authors at PERFECT PICTURE BOOK FRIDAY–the blog of author Susanna Leonard Hill.