Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Old Man by Sarah V illustrated by Claude K Dubois

This is an extraordinary book, one that can make the needed connection for young children to see human beings as more than their circumstances.  Kirkus

The sadness and reality of homelessness is powerfully brought home in this classy picture book.  Bobs Books Blog

One of the true joys of my job as a Teacher-Librarian in a Primary school is in finding important, poignant and profound books like The Old Man.  Congratulations to Scholastic for adding this book to their International titles Standing Order.

This story begins with opening scenes reminiscent of Sunshine by Jan Ormerod. A small girl and her father prepare to set off for work and school. Overnight it has been raining. An old man, who has spent the night sleeping on the street, also needs to get up and begin his day. He is wet, hungry, cold and very tired. He lies down by the side of the road until some police arrive to move him on. He finds his way to the homeless shelter but one simple question unnerves him.

"Your name, please.
His name? He doesn't remember ... Easier to leave.

He climbs onto a bus and falls asleep but when the bus fills up he is forced to get off quickly. He wanders into a park and sits down. A small girl sees him.

"Do you want my sandwich?
You're funny, you look like a teddy bear!"
The little girl smiles.
It's the best sandwich in the whole world.

It is a tiny gesture, by a small girl, which makes a huge difference on this one day for this one man.

On our city streets we see more and more homeless people. Our children see them too. I would hope a book like The Old Man might show adults that kindness counts and give our youngest children a small glimpse into the lives of people who are less fortunate.

Gecko Press specialise in the finding and publishing of foreign language texts. I learnt a new word tonight reading about this book. This little book, written with great compassion and sagacity ... has profound lessons of kindness for its young readers.  Sagacity means wisdom and that is the perfect word to describe this book.

Here are some  detailed teaching notes.  Here is a review where you can see some of the illustrations. If you want to follow this book with other picture books about the lives of homeless people here is a list to explore.

The Old Man was originally published in French with the title Bonhomme.  Here is the cover.

You could explore the topic of homelessness further with older students using two excellent Australian titles - Way home by Libby Hathorn and Space Travellers by Margaret Wild.  I would also link The Old Man with Footpath Flowers.

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