Title: The Old Woman Who Named Things
Author/Illustrator: Cynthia Rylant/Kathryn Brown
Publisher/Date: Voyager Books/1996
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 4+
Themes: loneliness, old age, dogs
Opening: "Once there was an old woman who loved to name things. She named the old car she drove "Betsy"."
Synopsis: From Publishers Weekly - "The unlikely protagonist of this quirky and
tenderhearted story is a little old lady with cat glasses and a beehive who
might have stepped out of The Far Side. Lonely, she names inanimate objects-her
car is Betsy, her bed is Roxanne. A stray dog wanders into her life but she
refuses to name it; after losing many friends "she named only those things she
knew she could never outlive." When the dog disappears, however, she realizes
that finding him-and subsequently naming him-is worth the risk of outliving him.
Brown's (Boris) hilarious, disproportionate depictions of the cowboy-booted
woman and her belongings give this tale much of its bounce. Betsy the car has
grinning grillwork and huge fins; Fred the chair has buttons for eyes and a
rearing, pompadour-like back cushion. This sweet and silly story has solid kid
appeal and the Larsonesque visuals will tickle more than a few grown-ups." Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Why I Love This Book:
This bittersweet story tugs at the heart strings. Just imagining an old woman, alone in the world, afraid to love, brings tears to my eyes. But she is warmed by a stray dog who keeps showing up. Only when he stops coming does she realize her attachment. Pets have the power to bring joy, hope, and healing. I also love the way she names her inanimate possessions, which are personified further through the magical illustrations.
Writing prompt: Name a favorite piece of furniture or a vehicle. Give it a personality and write about its likes and dislikes.
Research therapy dogs: http://www.tdi-dog.org/
Language Arts Lesson Plan, grades 3-5: http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/thoughtshots-bring-your-characters-1129.html
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