Friday, June 1, 2012

Perfect Picture Book Friday

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:

Language Arts Lesson Plan, grades 3-5:

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.


  1. What a great way to show kids about the feelings of others and get them to think beyond themselves. And the writing connection it provides--making their own story about a cool.

  2. Oh how sweet and funny and poignant all in one!

  3. I've actually read this one, and sort of marveled at how much I liked it. Not totally surprising considering it is by Cynthia Rylant. But who knew a story about an aging old lady could make a good picture book?

  4. I love this book, especially the ending. Great to add to the list!

  5. What a wonderful book. I think the quirky illustrations probably are a nice balance with the heart-string-tugging topic.

  6. I hope I can find this one at the library. Thanks for adding this to the list.

  7. Thank you so much, Laura, for this quirky entry into PPBF. I love the whole idea of the book...and your resource/activity list is awesome!