Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The Old Man, written by Sarah V. and illustrated by Claude K. Dubois. Translated by Daniel Hahn. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen & Son, 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up
It was a hard night.
He might stretch out for
Just for a few minutes.
Watch the people going by.
There's the man with the mail."
This is a book that is absolutely extraordinary from endpapers to endpapers. What lies between those morning and evening scenes is quietly stunning, and perfect. It is a testament to children and their ability to see what is important in the world.
Their days are parallel at the start. The little girl wakes up, and gets ready for her day at school. She walks into school as the new day begins. The old man awakens from his place on the sidewalk, cold and hungry. He walks to keep himself warm. Hunger consumes him. He meets up with a skinny cat, also looking for sustenance.
His day is long, following a cold and sleepless night. He watches the world pass him by, occasionally overcome by memories of a past life. He moves when told he is not welcome. There are no stores open yet to warm his cold, tired body. Maybe the shelter will help ease his hunger. When he can't remember his name, he chooses to leave rather than admit it. He finds shelter where he can as the day passes.
"The old man is thirsty. Apart from the sparrows, he's the only one
who knows how delicious this fountain water is!
There's nobody watching. The old man takes off his shoes.
Ahhh, that's better!
What if he stays here for a bit?
No one can see him under his blanket ... No one?"
The little girl sees. The little girl cares. She shares her sandwich, and leaves the old man with hope for better times ahead.
The soft tones of watercolor pencil illustrations create a mood that perfectly suits this quiet, sad, tender and uplifting story. It will give everyone who reads and shares it pause to consider kindness and attention to those left fortunate.