My Hippie Grandmother

My Hippie GrandmotherMy Hippie Grandmother

By Reeve Lindbergh; illustrated by Abby Carter. (Candlewick Press, 2003. Ages 4-8)

The oldest people we know lived long full lives. Yet too often they are slotted into one-dimensional roles of parent or grandparent.

It’s the same in many picture books with older characters. Even picture books I consider       “Age Positive” rarely portray real personality, values or life experiences.

Not so with the funky picture book My Hippie Grandmother* by Reeve Lindbergh. I dare you not to be delighted with its’ dynamic images of a grandma enjoying her Third Age.

The book begins:

“I have a hippie grandmother.

I’m really glad she’s mine.

She hasn’t cut her hair at all

Since nineteen sixty-nine,”

The text dances on with a sense of excitement! This grandma relishes her days and uses them well. We can guess at the experiences that made her the person she is today.

Colorful illustrations by Abby Carter take me back to my own high school bed room, circa 1972, with psychedelic curtains and fuzzy feet decals climbing the closet door.

Illus. from My Hippie Grandmother. Art by Abby Carter

This is an oldie from 2003, and unfortunately out of print, but definitely worth a peek here.

So much to love about My Hippie Grandmother:

  • No apron, no cane, no little eyeglasses. Just ripped jeans, flowing gray hair and bare feet. (No shame in using a cane or glasses. Or an apron! But their use to signify an older person is rather tired.)
  • Grandma has a boyfriend Jim, and a cat called Woodstock.
  • She and her granddaughter romp through activities like gardening, selling veggies at the farmer’s market and picketing city hall.
  • Picketing! “No More War” and “Kids for Peace.” Ten years ago when I began the “A is for Aging blog,” I shared this picture book. The first I spotted featuring an activist grandmother. Despite the fact that olders often take to the streets to make their voices heard, they’re still seldom seen in children’s books.

Illustration in My Hippie Grandmother. Art by Abby Carter

My Hippie Grandmother encourages kids to look at older adults with new eyes. Exposure to books like this help them to realize that older adults are not a homogeneous group—far from it.

Fact—older people are more different from each other than younger people.

Dr. Bill Thomas speaks to this in his book What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World.

“Young people, especially the youngest, are quite similar to one another. Older people who are the same age show much more diversity and it is much harder to make general statements about them. Far from being a weakness or defect, this variability is among the gifts that longevity offers to us.”

Art by Abby Carter in My Hippie Grandmother

Growing older many of us are fond of saying we feel just the same as we did when younger—we’re the same person inside. But actually, we’re not. Our life experiences shape us over the years.

“…all the choices we make regarding how we care for ourselves, how we manage our lives, and even how we think about our futures, shape who we ultimately become.”                           (Author Ken Dychtwald in Age Power .)

We become thoroughly unique. And interesting. However, too frequently as we age, we are all painted with the same brush and become generically “old.”

Next steps in challenging ageism:

Have you ever found yourself saying—I wish I’d asked mom more questions about her life? Or dad, or grandpa, or grandma. I’m sure I’m not alone with those regrets at sixty five. (Say your age. Expose ageism.)

Delve into the life experiences of the older people you know and love. I share some resources for life story interviews below. Don’t put them off! And begin jotting down your own personal memories—yours, and  those of older family members now gone. Think of the treasures you can share with your kids and grandkids!

Dive into an entertaining film that will inspire you! The documentary Lives Well Lived by talented filmmaker Sky Bergman is fascinating and fun. (I found a new role model!)

Discuss differences in older adults with children. Use what you learn about family members’ life experiences and picture books to jumpstart a fun chat. How are older adults different from each other? There’s obvious ways—some are still working, some are retired, some live close by and others far away, some are healthy and some are not.

But take it deeper—think about possible major historical events and early values that may have shaped olders as they matured. Share anecdotes and stories.

Here are some current picture books where older adults have real personality: Northwoods Girl; A River of Words; Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child; Grandfather Gandhi; Grandmother School; Kiyoshi’s Walk; The Boy Who Loved Math; Marjory Saved the Everglades.


Intergenerational Resources:

Find more Age Positive picture books on this website.

Get to know the olders in your life with these life story interviews: is on a mission to preserve and share stories and build connections between people. Free interview questions available online.

Storyworth is a paid service a friend use and loved. They supplied great questions to discuss with her 92 year old mother in a weekly telephone appointment for a year. Their interviews were then compiled into a book by Storyworth.

StoryFile for Families is recommended on the Lives Well Lived website.

Find additional aging & ageism resources on this website.

     ***Next month, February 2023, this A is for Aging blog will be 10 years old! Watch for my post sharing my “Ten Favorite Age Positive Picture Books.”

*NOTE: My Hippie Grandmother is sadly it is out of print. Check your library,, or used books online at or Amazon.

The author, Reeve Lindbergh, is the youngest child of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She was raised in Connecticut, educated at Radcliffe, and has lived for many years on a farm in northern Vermont. She’s authored novels, memoirs and books for children.


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Artist Katarzyna Bukiert on Illustrating “Christmas Fairies for Ouma”


I recently interviewed Katarzyna Bukiert, the illustrator of our book “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” from Familius Books .























Hello Katarzyna! Your illustrations add such magic and emotional depth to the book. I’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about you and I’m sure readers will also.

I understand you live in Poland. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Currently I live with my daughter and two dogs (one small and one quite big) in a fairly large city – in Poznań. Every day I go in the forest for walks with my dogs, I make illustrations or design patterns for children’s clothing. When I have no other orders/work, I work on my own projects. I’m currently creating my own picture book. I also wrote and illustrated a book on analog photography for children early on.

How did you get started as an artist? Do you come from an artistic family?
No, I don’t come from an artistic family. I have always been fascinated by painting. But even if I drew or painted something, I hid it in the deepest drawer and did not show it to anyone.


Everything changed when I started studying medicine. I was very overwhelmed by the teaching system. In my sophomore year, something broke in me, I couldn’t go on. Then in a small art shop, I met someone who encouraged me to take part in a painting workshop. From the very first workshop, my first drawing, I knew that this is my life and that I had to paint.

My life changed. So you can say that I started painting when I was 20 years old. I finished my second year of studies, but at the same time I was preparing for the exams at the Academy of Fine Arts. I took a dean’s leave in medicine and applied for painting.

Katarzyna in her studio

After 3 years I also started studying art photography. However, I started illustrating only after I finished my studies. I was fascinated by the fact that it is an art form that is present in almost every child’s everyday life.

Art by Katarzyna Bukiert

What was it like working on “Christmas Fairies for Ouma?” Your favorite part? The most challenging aspect?
The most challenging aspect of the work was showing things that were happening simultaneously on different continents, but at the same time it was the thing that I liked the most. It was also important for me to show the bond between Tessa and Ouma.

What I like about working on illustrations for a book is that I need to learn a lot about the topic that I am going to illustrate first. Thanks to this I learn something new with each book. “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” was unique in this regard, because I had to find out what South Africa looks like – both how people dress, what the vegetation is, what the streets in Cape Town look like, and how postal workers in the US, UK and South Africa dress.

When illustrating, I must first get to know the world that I am supposed to describe visually. While working on this book, I really appreciated the support of the publishing house Familius. Their comments were accurate and thanks to them the book is better. I liked the atmosphere of our cooperation.

Katarzyna, children are delighted to trace the red line that follows the card’s journey across the world! What a sweet idea!

Please tell us about the materials and resources you used in illustrating the book.
While working on this book, I used watercolors, which I have recently been delighted with. It always seemed to me to be a very difficult technique. However, when the pandemic started I had more time because there were no orders for a while, I decided to use this time to learn new illustration techniques and watercolors delighted me. “Christmas Fairies for Ouma” is the first book I have made with this technique. At the end, some elements were put together on the computer.

Do your own interests or life influence your art? What else do you enjoy?
I am inspired primarily by nature. I find the best color combinations when walking with the dogs in the forest, by the river or by the lake. I also like the colors that appear after dark.

Many things interest me! I would like to multiply myself sometimes because I am drawn in many directions. For example, for a while I had a ceramics studio (I made flower pots, vases, teapots and kettles). I constantly find something interesting that draws me in.

I am also interested in physics, biology and the psychology of animal behavior. I train dog sport with my dogs – obedience training. I love carpentry. Sometimes I make simple furniture and renovations in my apartment myself. For example I can put tiles or putty on walls 🙂  I like to do this in the breaks between working on individual books. After working on a book, I need some physical work for balance.

Recently, I started playing bass guitar, although I had never dealt with music before. My daughter inspired me—she has been playing guitar and drums for some time. I also love reading books and comics. I think I will never be bored!

Thank you Katarzyna for your honest answers. They gave us such wonderful insights into your creative life. You have so many interests and talents! I look forward to seeing all you accomplish in the future!

Visit Katarzyna’s Bukiert’s website to learn more and see her amazing art! You can take a peek at her beautiful city Poznań at this site on Instagram.)

For more information about Christmas Fairies for Ouma, please see this page. You can  find a FREE download there with related activities for children and an easy South African recipe!

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Four New 2022 Grandparent Picture Books!

New book! Out 11-1-22

Long distance grandparents, blended families, LGBTQ+ grandparents and grandparents raising grandchildren—all are contemporary issues affecting modern day kids. It’s so affirming to see them all represented in AgePositive ways in new picture books.

Here I share four new picture books beginning with my own first fictional picture book–apologies for the short commercial!  (It’s based on a true family story!)

I hope you’re enjoying autumn wherever you are! I had a fantastic summer–it went by SO fast. A highlight was my day at the Minnesota State Fair as a Blue Ribbon author! Kids enjoyed fun printing activities for Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story.

Art by Katarzyna Bukiert

 Christmas Fairies for Ouma

By Lindsey McDivitt; illustrated by Katarzyna Bukiert (Familius Books)

Christmas Fairies for Ouma celebrates the long distance love between a grandparent and grandchild with a heartwarming message of caring and connection and hidden fairies on every page. Follow the magical journey of a child’s card traveling 10,000 miles across the world, from the hand of one stranger spreading cheer to another, with NO name, no street and no stamps—all the way to Ouma. Is it kindness or Christmas magic? The story is based on the author’s true story of her family’s small, but magical miracle involving the postal service.

Christmas Fairies for Ouma publishes on November 1, 2022. Available now. More information here.

Brand New Bubbe

by Sarah Aronson; illustrated by Ariel Landy (Charlesbridge Books)

Jillian’s mom remarries and she gains a new stepdad and a new grandmother in her blended interfaith family of varying skin tones. Bubbe, her new Jewish grandmother is warm, vital and colorful, but Jillian’s not convinced she needs another. She already enjoys “…theater with Noni, or bike riding with Gram.” Bubbe wins Jillian over making matzo ball soup (which she learned from her bubbes of course). “Family is more than blood.” The diverse nature of older people shines. It’s good to see great grandma, Great Mama-Nana, included too. Great grandparents are infrequent characters in picture books, yet many children now know their greats. The author shares a new kind of family tree for blended families—The Family Constellation.

Grandad’s Camper

By author/illustrator Harry Woodgate (Little Bee Books in association with GLAAD)

“If you’re looking for a picture book about grandparents, love, and grief with amazing LGBTQ+ representation, I have the perfect book for you today. Grandad’s Camper follows a young girl who loves to visit her grandad’s cottage every summer, listening to stories of his travels with Gramps. Grandad doesn’t travel much since Gramps passed away, but that’s all about to change, as our young narrator encourages Grandad to dust off his old camper and get back on the road.” (Description from

Ten Beautiful Things

By Molly Beth Griffin; illustrated by Maribel Lechuga (Charlesbridge Books)

Many, many grandparents are raising their beloved grandchildren. “Lily and her grandmother search for ten beautiful things as they take a long car ride to Iowa and Lily’s new home with Gran. At first, Lily sees nothing beautiful in the April slush and cloudy sky. Soon though, Lily can see beauty in unexpected places, from the smell of spring mud to a cloud shaped like a swan to a dilapidated barn. A furious rainstorm mirrors Lily’s anxiety, but as it clears Lily discovers the tenth beautiful thing: Lily and Gran and their love for each other. Ten Beautiful Things leaves the exact cause of Lily’s move ambiguous, making it perfect for anyone helping a child navigate change, whether it be the loss of a parent, entering or leaving a foster home, or moving.” Read more at an earlier “A is for Aging” post. (Description from

Bonus book recommendation!

Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs about Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live

By Becca Levy Ph.D., Yale University epidemiologist & psychologist (William Morrow & Co.)

This is not a picture book, but I highly recommend Dr. Levy’s new book—it’s highly readable and life changing. I’ve touted her groundbreaking research since beginning this blog ten years ago. Taking in negative age stereotypes over our lifetime can shorten our lives by up to 7.5 years.

Dr. Levy offers easy strategies to age in healthy, positive ways. “The often-surprising results of Levy’s science offer stunning revelations about the mind-body connection. She demonstrates that many health problems formerly considered to be entirely due to the aging process, such as memory loss, hearing decline, and cardiovascular events, are instead influenced by the negative age beliefs that dominate in the US and other ageist countries.” ( *Note: it’s currently discounted (10/2022) from both sources shared here.

Thanks so much for reading! It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday–you can find more Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog!



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A Queen to the Rescue: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah

By Nancy Churnin; illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Creston Books, 2021. (Ages 8-13)

What a breath of fresh air! A Queen to the Rescue shows us the true story of an older woman making a difference. It’s so important that young readers see examples of older adults in the role of helper.

“Henrietta Szold provides a model for social justice, how to work for it, no matter the obstacles. Her determination and spirit remain an inspiration to women all over the world.” (Creston Books)

Henrietta founded the Jewish women’s social justice organization, Hadassah, in 1912. She was determined to offer emergency medical care to mothers and children in Palestine. Since childhood she’d been inspired by the brave 4th century Jewish Queen Esther. Hadassah is the Hebrew name for Esther.

Older adults volunteering or advocating for change are rarely portrayed in picture books. Yet the world is filled with olders helping others—often sharing skills learned over many years. Olders give millions of hours for no pay—rebuilding homes after an earthquake for example, or teaching young children to read. They also provide support and love and mentoring within their families.

Far too often in picture books the main character, a child, is shown helping an older person in need—a sad, grumpy, lonely or ill older person. Yes, on occasion olders need us, and there is no shame in that. But we are all interdependent—sometimes we’re the ones who need a little help and sometimes we’re the helpers. No matter how old we are.


Here are my Top Ten Reasons I recommend A Queen to the Rescue: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah:

  1. Henrietta Szold saw great needs in the Jewish people both in America and abroad, and over her lifetime she never looked away. Instead she took action.


  1. I’m so glad the author shares Henrietta was a strong single woman in the latter 1800’s when “women couldn’t vote, own a business, be doctors or lawyers.” Inspiration for girls!


  1. When Henrietta created Hadassah she insisted the charity “serve all in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality. (In 2005 Hadassah was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.)

  1. A timeline in the back matter helps cement in readers minds that Henrietta’s astounding contributions occurred far into adulthood and as an older adult.
  2. At age 73 she pulled up roots in America and moved to Palestine to help rescue 11,000 Jewish children from the Nazis terrorizing Europe.

6. Henrietta braved a journey to Germany as a Jew when the Jewish people were being arrested, beaten, and killed.

  1. She met secretly with frightened parents, and fought for visas and boats to help Jewish children to safety.


  1. Earlier in her life as a teacher in America, Henrietta’s concern was for new Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution in Poland and Russia. She opened the very first night school for adults to learn English after they finished work.


  1. Extensive back matter further educates readers on Henrietta’s many accomplishments. We also learn more about Queen Esther and the Jewish holiday Purim which celebrates the courage of the 4th century Jewish Queen.

  1. Last but not least, author Nancy Churnin has created a moving and vital account of Henrietta Szold that is perfectly complemented by the bold, stunning illustrations of Ukrainian-American artist Yevgenia Nayberg. I recommend it for ALL ages.


This beautiful quote from Henrietta Szold ends this important picture book:

“Dare to dream, and when you dream, dream big.”

I reviewed a library copy of A Queen to the Rescue. Find it at a library near you or see purchase options–both at

Learn more about older adults as activists , read about early environmentalist Gwen Frostic in Nature’s Friend , Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Marjory Saves the Everglades and President Nelson Mandela.

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Late Blooming Writer: Carol Gordon Ekster

Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.

Today we hear from late blooming author Carol Gordon Ekster:

Teaching was my passion. I taught 4th grade for 35 years. The summer after I turned 50 my husband and I spent a day at the beach. I was reading the Boston Globe, then found myself walking to the car. I returned to my chair with post-its and a pen. And right then, I worked on my first picture book. Writing came to me that day.

I did not ask for this—it was never planned. But I am so grateful for the gift.

I taught writing but never wanted to write myself. But once on this path, there was no turning back. I joined SCBWI. And then I remembered. I’d written a book in 6th grade, and poems. My Masters’ degree was in reading and language. I took a sabbatical and investigated writing workshop programs for my students. I read picture books every day to my fourth graders, to introduce or follow-up on a concept taught.

Everything in my life led me to this new career. It was perfect timing. I would have something wonderful to do during my retirement years. I would not have had the time to invest when I was younger. I could not have supported myself as an author without the benefit of a retirement check. And I just wasn’t ready.

My sister told me she learned at a workshop—for many women menopause and after are times of enormous creativity. That seemed to be what happened to me.

Aging afforded me the freedom, wisdom, and flexibility to endure a writing life with its ups and downs. And the stories just kept coming. I now have more than 120 completed manuscripts.

I didn’t retire until I was 57, the year after my first book came out. I have gotten a huge number of rejections, but pushed on. I did the work–going to conferences, reading stacks of picture books weekly, joining critique groups, writing and revising, and connecting with other writers. I immersed myself in the creative life.

I’m in six critique groups, a marketing group @PBrockiteers22, the Courage to Create at the Writing Barn, and the group blog, Writers’ Rumpus. After many rejections, even from Highlights Magazine, my first piece was in their December 2021 issue. And I continue to persevere.

I recently turned 70 and my fifth book, SOME DADDIES, with Beaming Books, illustrated by Javiera Mac-lean Alvarez, launched May 17th, 2022. The story came to me during a facetime call with my grandson.  He said his daddy shaved like my husband…but he’s going to have a beard when he gets older because he’s going to be a daddy. I said…”Some daddies have beards…” My writing brain ignited and I paused to write that down as a title.

After a picture book pitch event on twitter, this story sold a year later. I’m so excited—it celebrates the incredible diversity of modern fathers and the endless possibilities masculine love offers. And I wanted children to understand the truth in the repeated line, “Every daddy is different.”

I remember feeling emotional at times when I was a child because of the truth in this page spread-

“Some daddies share comforting words and cry with you.

Others love making you laugh.

Some barely hug.

Others hug like bears.”

My dad was one who barely hugged. And when I was younger that was hard for me. But I learned to accept him and appreciate his many other incredible gifts. And as adults we became very close. He passed away before he could see the finished book, but he knew it was coming and that it was dedicated to him and my grandson.

I’m proud of this book trailer for Some Daddies, a family endeavor. My husband and I worked on the trailer and my brother-in-law wrote an original tune and sings.

SOME DADDIES and my fourth book, YOU KNOW WHAT? happened rather quickly in my journey of being an author. My sixth book, TRUCKER KID (Capstone, illustrated by Russ Cox) comes out spring 2023. I wrote it ten years before I will hold the book in my hand. And though there were many rewrites and rejections I believed in that story.

I find writing now to be a meditative experience as I play with words to have them align in the best possible way. This author life even allows me to continue communicating with children during school visits, virtual events, and at bookstores. It has been a surprising and wonderful second career that I hope I can continue for many years to come.

Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)

Find more late bloomers guest posts.

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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“:


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. 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.

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9, Especially For Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Late Bloomer interview: Author Dionna Mann

Author Dionna Mann

***Late Bloomers are guest blog posts at A is for Aging—sharing thoughts and insights from individuals who have launched notable creative efforts in the arts in their Third Age.***

Today we have a delightful interview of late blooming children’s  author Dionna Mann with questions from fellow author Kellye Crocker. It includes helpful info on writing “work for hire” projects! Read on!

Hey, Dionna! We’re shaking things up today. I love reading your Blog Party interviews of your fellow authors! Now we want to hear from you!

That’s nice of you, Kellye! To be honest, I love interviewing, but hate being interviewed. HAHA! But here I am!

It is different to be on the other side, isn’t it? Ha! Before we get to the juicy author-y questions, please fill us in about the blog itself. You’ve been doing it since 2013, right?

When I started my website and blog (free through Weebly) I had no idea what to post. I absolutely did not want to fill it with my own musings about the kidlit industry or life or whatever. After months of staring at a blinking cursor, I decided to recycle some of my published articles about the craft.

by Dionna Mann

After a while I realized there are gobs of blogs in cyberspace devoted to the kidlit industry. Obviously, my little lily pad was not needed. But after falling in love with the marvelous picture book MARVELOUS CORNELIUS, I got a marvelous idea. Why not have a BLOG PARTY for this amazing work of art?!

by Phil Bildner & John Parra

The author, Phil Bildner, and the illustrator, John Parra, were keen on the idea. For seven days, I interviewed someone who had a share in creating MARVELOUS CORNELIUS (which went on to win all kinds of awards, mind you!) My Blog Party was a BIG hit! After that I knew I’d use my blog to celebrate children’s books that I love.

A week of interviewing people involved in the same wonderful project is such a great idea! So how did you find your way into becoming a kidlit author and why do you love it?

In high school I had a creative writing workshop with a published author, Mort Castle. I never had thought of myself as a writer, though I had fun writing for the school newspaper. But when the instructor read my scribblings, he made me believe I had voice, and that it was special. I never heard that before, but okay.

Yay for encouraging teachers and other adults who help young people see their talents! 

I agree! As that course was wrapping up, Mr. Castle showed us how to submit our work using WRITER’S MARKET. I remember showing him my rejection letter that encouraged me to submit something else. I was not impressed, but he was. He told me I should resubmit. But I was discouraged and threw it in the trash.

Dionna, 1988

I understand the discouragement. But, wow, a personalized encouraging rejection letter? That’s amazing, especially for your first time out, and as a teen at that! 

Looking back, it was cool! Fast forward to the late 90s, my husband purchased a family computer. I pulled out my high school manuscripts, and retyped them on this brand new, fancy contraption that came with a backspace that did not involve whiteout strips.

Then using another new contraption called dial-up Internet, I discovered Lee & Low Book’s (very first) New Voices Contest (opens May 1st). I wrote something new for the first time since high school, and sent it off. And guess what? I got a personal rejection letter encouraging me to submit something else.

This time I was impressed! It really was a wonderful rejection—with specific things the editors liked and advice on making the story suitable for kids. And here I am, still writing manuscripts with the goal of one day having Lee & Low say YES!

I can understand why you would be. What project of the heart are you working on?

To be honest, I’m a little sidetracked with work-for-hire projects right now. I’ve had TWELVE since the pandemic started, which has helped with being stuck at home, but not so much with getting projects of the heart written.

TWELVE!? Do you sleep!?

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to!

by Dionna Mann


Ha! Wouldn’t it be nice to have all that extra time? For those who don’t know, can you briefly explain what work-for-hire is?

Sure! Basically, work-for-hire is when a publisher pays you a set fee to write something specific for them. There are no royalties and the publisher owns the complete rights of the work. In my experience, most of the manuscripts are for books in a series designed for the educational market.

The contract tells you beforehand exactly what the topic will be, the scope of the work, and/or the theme the work will need to include. There is always a strict word count, sometimes right down to how many words per spread. And there is almost always a certain reading level you must obtain

Usually there’s a super-tight, non-flexible deadline to be met—first for turning in the outline, then for the draft, and then for the revision. You work very closely with your editor on these titles. The editor ensures your outline and text fits the mold of the series.

We’d love to know a bit about your specific work-for-hire projects. Are they aimed at kids? Do you get an author credit? What topics are you tackling?

For the children’s book market, I am just getting started. My first book, ORCAS, came out by Scholastic Press in 2019. To date, I’ve written for Scholastic, Lerner, Capstone, Little, Brown, Curriculum Associates, WETA, and Core Knowledge. Projects have included fiction and nonfiction books for kindergarten through fifth grade, with word counts from 350 to 10,000 words.

by Dionna Mann

I have covered all kinds of topics! Rhythmic gymnastics, conserving water, space explorers, electric cars, wheelchair basketball, tumbleweeds, potty training, and more! And yes, I have gotten author credit, though I know that with some books your name is not on the cover.

When and how did you get started in the work-for-hire arena? Do editors come to you with assignments or do you pitch ideas? What are the deadlines like?

Previously, I had sent samples “blind” to educational publishers, and had received some nice feedback, but it wasn’t until an SCBWI friend of the pen referred me to Stephanie Fitzgerald of Spooky Cheetah Press that my work-for-hire journey began.

(Recently, I had a nice surprise. An acquiring editor at Curriculum Associates reached out to me after she had read my article about drones collecting whale snot in Spider! It’s not always about who you know! HAHA!)

Regarding deadlines—some of them are quite brutal, honestly. But the more I do these projects, the more I’m learning how to streamline the research, striving to stay clear of those endless research rabbit holes. Working on one project at a time helps me, and not taking on projects with back-to-back deadlines.

So far, all ideas have originated with the editor. Never in a million years would I have attempted to write about how electric cars work, otherwise! That may change in the future. One editor recently invited me to tell her if I have any ideas for a future series. (Now, if only I can think of something!)

Besides meeting deadlines, what qualities do you think are essential for being a successful work-for-hire author?

Be ready to kill your darlings, because changes to what you’ve written will come. (AKA: Don’t be an author diva! Be ready with kindness. After all, we do hope editors will want to work with us again, right?)

by Dionna Mann


Thank you for the sneak peek into the work-for-hire world! Now tell us about the project of the heart you’re working on.

I have two projects of the heart brewing in the wee brain. One will be a middle-grade based on my childhood—missteps while trying to fit in with the popular girls. It will have the theme that one good friend is worth more than a ton of phony ones. It will be historical fiction, but I hope the theme will be relevant in our age of social media.

Those themes of fitting in will always resonate, I think. I certainly relate! 

I also have a picture book I just finished about an Antebellum community of free persons of color that thrived near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. It will be full of light and love and respect for the laborer and will have the theme of the land welcoming all kinds of people in.

Just reading your description makes me happy! I hope you’re able to find time for both of these wonderful projects, Dionna!

Me too!


What do you love about working with Kelly Dyksterhouse and Jacqui Lipton of Raven Quill Literary?

Lit Agent Jacqui Lipton

I need two agents, apparently! I’m privileged to be represented by both of them. Kelly and Jacqui respect each other’s opinions and both are on the lookout for where to submit my work. How cool is that?

I’m so glad Kelly and Jacqui have helped you trust your writing and your voice. Thank you so much Dionna, for sharing a bit of your journey as a late blooming kidlit author!

It was my pleasure!

–Read Dionna’s fun “BLOG PARTY” interviews of her fellow authors represented by agent Kelly Dyksterhouse on her blog. (This includes lucky me and Kellye.)

Lit Agent Kelly Dyksterhouse

–Interested in writing Work for Hire? Here’s a great blog post from Lerner Books.

Resources for late blooming writers

***Late Bloomers defy age stereotypes and help show us the way to tap into our creativity using life experience, energy and positive attitudes.

“Creativity keeps us fresh, keeps us alive, keeps us moving forward.”

(Rollo May, psychotherapist and author of Courage to Create.)


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7 Positive Things Picture Books Can Teach Us about Aging

(Note: I’m celebrating a “blogiversary” with a book giveaway! “A is for Aging” was birthed back in 2013, to zero fanfare! 😉 Along the way I’ve collaborated with Sandra L. McGuire Ph.D. on resources on the website. And in 2022 I’m celebrating hanging in there for NINE years. (Resources for parents & educators.) .)

And now to the main course…

7 Positive Things Picture Books Can Teach Us about Aging

Few people think of ageism as affecting children in negative ways.

Nor do they think of ageism in the same light as other abuses of human rights.

The reality? Ageism is yet another highly damaging “ism”—one that simply flies under the radar. Exposure begins in childhood and experts share that ageism affects us all—including our health and longevity.

In the same way that racism robs people of the recognition of their individual strengths and abilities, so goes ageism.

By the time we reach late life we’ve suffered decades of damage taking in stereotypes equating late life with disease, dementia and death. With grumpiness, loneliness and sadness. We then apply the negative beliefs to ourselves. But read on for more positive news.

So what is ageism?

“Ageism is stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. We experience it any time someone assumes that we’re “too old” for something—a task, a haircut, a relationship—instead of finding out who we are and what we’re capable of,” says author and activist Ashton Applewhite.

by Ashton Applewhite

“Or ‘too young;’ ageism cuts both ways, although in a youth-obsessed society olders bear the brunt of it.”

We are all aging—every day. How we think about growing older is critically important.

Many birthdays are a good thing! And here’s another positive.

A body of important research conducted by Becca Levy, professor of epidemiology and psychology at Yale University, found “that the people who had a positive view of aging lived about 7 and half years longer than the people who saw aging in a negative light.”

You read that correctly. Dr. Levy’s extensive research has shown that simply viewing late life and aging in a positive light boosts cardiovascular health, mental and physical functioning, and recovery from illness and disability. The impact is greater than never smoking or exercising daily.

In 2021 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared ageism a global threat.

“Ageism harms everyone – old and young. But often, it is so widespread and accepted – in our attitudes and in policies, laws and institutions – that we do not even recognize its detrimental effect on our dignity and rights,”

“We need to fight ageism head-on, as a deep-rooted human rights violation,” says Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In addition, the WHO shares, “Ageism influences health through three pathways: psychological, behavioural and physiological.”

Ageist beliefs begin in childhood.

At every age we are confronted with sad peeks at a negative future. Age stereotypes and aging myths are everywhere—trumpeted by TV, social media, magazines, movies and books. Even books for kids.

So does it matter if children’s picture books present older characters as negative stereotypes and equate the aging process with decline and death?

It does. In fact, those carefully chosen words and colorful illustrations of later life are helping to create the older adults that children will become. They affect kids’ health and longevity.

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 such as those pictured in this post* can counteract the age stereotypes kids take in daily from many sources.

Age positive picture books promote these truths about aging and later life.

  1. Older adults are a highly diverse and interesting bunch. (See We Became Jaguars; Indelible Ann: The Larger-Than-Life Story of Governor Ann Richards; The Water Lady; Don’t Call me Grandma; Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas; An Old Man and his Penguin; Grandad’s Camper)

Miss Rumphius

  1. Normal aging is NOT about stereotypes like decline and death, dementia or other illnesses, loneliness or grumpiness. (See Grandmother School; The Ocean Calls; These Hands; The Truth about Grandparents; Northwoods Girl; The Wakame Gatherers; The Teacher Who Would Not Retire.)

  1. Late life is most often a time of happiness and satisfaction. (Grandparents; My Little Golden Book About Betty WhiteMr. George Baker; Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child; Where Three Oceans Meet; Mr. McGinty’s Monarchs.)

  1. Creativity is frequently enhanced by the experiences of a long life. (See Kiyoshi’s Walk; Mornings with Monet; Dancing in Thatha’s Footsteps; Henri’s Scissors;   It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor started to Draw; The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau.)

  1. Aging and interdependence are normal and lifelong—at every age and ability we deserve to be treated as a valued individual. (See The Most Beautiful Thing; How Old am I?; Miss Rumphius; Ten Ways to Hear Snow; Mrs. Katz and Tush, and Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes.)

  1. Older adults possess a variety of interests, abilities, and talents that does not melt away with age, but grows with experience. (See Ten Beautiful Things; My Teacher; Abuelita and I Make Flan; Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story; A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams; The Oldest Student and Nana Akua Goes to School.)

show cover of book The Oldest Student

  1. People of all ages have much in common and much to gain from intergenerational relationships. (See Tofu Takes Time; Harry and Walter; A Map into the World; Drawn Together; George Baker; An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution; Jingle Dancer.)

Please share an Age Positive* picture book soon with an impressionable young mind.

***Don’t forget to comment on this post for a chance to win a hard copy of my book A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation—mailed to one winner within the continental U.S.A. (Giveaway now closed)

Let me know in a comment if you share this post on social media and I’ll throw another chance in the hat for you. Thank you!

ALL images shared in this post are Age Positive books. For more go to the picture book resources at

Download a free RESOURCE PAGE on aging and ageism in picture books here.



Posted in Articles, Especially For Teachers, Resources for Writers, The Basics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Ten Beautiful Things & Kiyoshi’s Walk

Two lovely new picture books subtly address loneliness, compassion, wisdom, creativity and the beauty surrounding us. These Age Positive picture books, Ten Beautiful Things and Kiyoshi’s Walk, do this in such an exceptional way that both adults and children will come away with renewed appreciation for the poetry to be found in ordinary living, whether they live in rural settings or in a city.


Ten Beautiful Things

By Molly Beth Griffin; illustrated by Maribel Lechuga

Charlesbridge; 2021

Ten Beautiful Things illustration

In Ten Beautiful Things “Lily and her grandmother search for ten beautiful things as they take a long car ride to Iowa and Lily’s new home with Gran. At first, Lily sees nothing beautiful in the April slush and cloudy sky.

illustration in Ten Beautiful Things

Soon though, Lily can see beauty in unexpected places, from the smell of spring mud to a cloud shaped like a swan to a dilapidated barn. A furious rainstorm mirrors Lily’s anxiety, but as it clears Lily discovers the tenth beautiful thing: Lily and Gran and their love for each other.

Ten Beautiful Things illustration by Maribel Lechuga

Ten Beautiful Things leaves the exact cause of Lily’s move ambiguous, making it perfect for anyone helping a child navigate change, whether it be the loss of a parent, entering or leaving a foster home, or moving.” (Book description at

Kiyoshi’s Walk

by Mark Karlins; illustrated by Nicole Wong

Lee & Low Books Inc.; 2021

Kiyoshi’s Walk

Kiyoshi’s Walk:After Kiyoshi watches his grandfather, Eto, compose his delicate haiku, he wonders out loud: “Where do poems come from?”

illustration in Kiyoshi’s Walk

His grandfather answers by taking him on a walk through their city, where they see a cat perched on a hill of oranges; hear the fluttering of wings; imagine what’s behind a tall wall; and discuss their walk, with each incident inspiring a wonderful new haiku from Eto.

Art in Kiyoshi’s Walk

As Kiyoshi discovers that poems come from the way the world outside of us meets the world within each of us, he also finds the courage to write a haiku of his own.” (Book description from Lee & Low Books)

Kiyoshi, and also Lily in Ten Beautiful Things learn the comfort found just being with a wise, compassionate grandparent. Both also learn to observe the world carefully, looking for beauty and finding it.

As evening shadows fall, the day cools and other children leave the park, Kiyoshi feels lonely.

illustration in Kiyoshi’s Walk

“They sat for a moment in silence.

‘May I write a poem?’ Kiyoshi asked

Eto nodded.

Kiyoshi took a deep breath and wrote:

            In the cool spring night

            The wind’s dance makes me shiver.

            Your voice keeps me warm.

Eto read his grandson’s poem. He smiled.” (Text by Mark Karlins; Kiyoshi’s Walk)

In Ten Beautiful Things, Lily is lonely too, and obviously coping with loss. But she also feels the special accepting warmth of a grandparent’s love.

“Gram came around with the umbrella,

and Lily stepped out of the car.

We’re ten,’ Gram said.

Lily sank into her familiar hug.

None of this was easy.

Maybe it would never be easy.

But she belonged with Gram now.

She belonged here now.” (Text by Molly Beth Griffin; Ten Beautiful Things)

illustration in Ten Beautiful Things

A theme of creativity in later life ties these two Age Positive picture books together in my mind. The kind of creativity that enables the “secret of living with one’s entire being.” The kind of creativity that comes with living many years.

Gene Cohen, M.D. discusses this “secret” extensively in his book The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life. “It is the creativity that empowers us…and that enable us to participate in life as a journey of exploration, discovery, and self-expression,” he states.

“It can occur at any age and under any circumstances, but the richness of experience that age provides us magnifies the possibilities tremendously,” adds Dr. Cohen. “The unique combination of creativity and life experience creates a dynamic dimension for inner growth with aging.”

As author Mark Karlins shares in his note at the end of Kiyoshi’s Walk:

“If we look with a poet’s eye, everything becomes poetry.”

Older adults can often show kids how to live fully while coping with losses in life. How to cope daily with small stresses and the subtle negative feelings that change our moods. And how to reach for happiness.

Read more on late life happiness.

Activity idea: Why not use these two amazing picture books to discuss this question with children—how did this grandmother and this grandfather gain the knowledge, the compassion and the ability to see the beauty in everything around them?

(Answer: Years of living. Years of observing the world. Years of practice. Years of experience.)

I reviewed my own copy of Ten Beautiful Things and a library copy of Kiyoshi’s Walk.

This review is part of Perfect Picture Book Fridays at Susanna Hill’s blog. Find more great books there!

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Picture Book Review: The Water Lady

My Top Ten Reasons to read The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation

Text by Alice McGinty; Illustrations by Shonto Begay

Schwartz & Wade Books; 2021

Grandmother Darlene Arviso delivers water via tanker truck to hundreds of people in the Navajo Nation on a daily basis. As author Alice McGinty shares, “Darlene is a friend, psychologist, and social worker as well as the Water Lady.” In this modern day tale the tremendous sense of community shines despite the people on the reservation lacking so much most of us take for granted. This Age Positive picture book shines a light on a compassionate and hardworking older woman.

  1. True stories about unsung heroes are an absolute favorite of mine. “Almost forty percent of the people living on the Navajo reservation do not have running water in their homes. Darlene delivers 3,500 gallons of water to 10-12 homes a day, taking a month to visit each of the 220 homes on her route.”

  1. Parallel tales highlight Darlene’s day and that of Cody, a thirsty young boy living on the reservation and dependent on her water deliveries.


  1. This competent, caring grandmother holds down two jobs. She drives a school bus twice a day and in between she drives a “big yellow tanker truck;” first filling it with more than 3000 gallons of water.

  1. Young readers will gain eye opening insights into life without easy access to water rushing from a faucet. They’ll learn of the animals and people and their water needs.


  1. Water conservation efforts are explained simply and colorfully.

Darlene “knows that the families will make careful use of their gift:

They’ll fill the chickens’ feeders with just enough fresh water.

They’ll catch each drop from a shower to water the flowers.

They’ll reuse dishwater to mop floors and bathwater to do laundry.

They’ll use laundry water again to wash the car.”

  1. Illustrator Shonto Begay shows us the hot, dry and dusty terrain and the hardy people beautifully. He was born to a Navajo medicine man and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Sante Fe, New Mexico.



  1. Author Alice McGinty uses masterful text to also highlight the sensory satisfaction of “cool water sliding down his throat” and the landscape so different from what many of us know:

“Thick, dry heat muffles the land as Darlene guides the big yellow truck, heavy with water, up and down steep hills. She winds between mesas and rolls across valleys dotted with sun-baked shrubs.”


  1. There are two grandmothers in The Water Lady and they’re quite different from each other. This is reality and it’s important to remind children that older adults are actually more different from each other than kids are. Years of lived experience will do that to people. No one’s experience is exactly the same.

  1. The back matter is brief, but highly informative—including an author’s note, sources and a photograph of Darlene Arviso, the devoted Water Lady. A glossary at the book’s beginning tells us “The Navajo refer to themselves as Dine`, a word that means “the people.” Navajo was a name given to them by Europeans.


  1. Last but not least, this lovely book ends with a note from Darlene herself. She states her wish that the younger generation gets more in touch with the older generation “and listens to their stories and tales of the old days so that our history and tradition will not be lost.”


Water conservation activities for kids:

  • After asking kids for guesses regarding which household activities use the most water, you can consult this LA Times article for some surprising information on personal water usage.


  • Consult the Water Footprint Calculator to learn the shocking statistics related to water quantities needed to produce much of the food we eat.


I reviewed a library copy of The Water Lady: How Darlene Arviso Helps a Thirsty Navajo Nation.


For more fabulous picture book reviews go to the blog of Susanna Leonard Hill for Perfect Picture Book Friday.


Find my reviews of more true stories about amazing older adults.

Posted in Book Reviews for Ages 3-6, Book Reviews for Ages 6-9 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments