The Old Man is about a small girl, having an ordinary school day, meets a homeless person who is trying to survive another bleak day on the streets.
This is a timely publication and a profoundly moving read. An old man is homeless. His memory is deteriorating. As the pages unfurl, we see a gentle person, embarrassed by his condition, who blushes ‘beneath his beard’ when a child points out that he ‘stinks’. We notice his kindness to animals. We observe his gratitude for sweet water from a fountain and scraps of discarded food. He is slipping through the cracks of the bureaucratic welfare system. At a homeless peoples’ shelter, he cannot remember his name, so it is ‘easier to leave’. And then he meets the little girl.
The language is simple and quiet, and the watercolour and pencil illustrations are superbly atmospheric. The story is haunting, and we are left with so many questions as to who, how and why. We learn that small acts of kindness and humanity matter. We see the importance of a name, and how, as human beings, we can help define or eradicate another’s identity. The Old Man would make an excellent classroom resource for ‘Critical Thinking and Book Talk’ for children from five years upwards.
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