The Old Woman by Joanne Schwartz

The Old Woman by Joanne Schwartz
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The Old Woman is a beautiful portrait of an old woman who lives contentedly with her dog, from award-winning author Joanne Schwartz and illustrator Nahid Kazemi.

An old woman shares her home with a scruffy old dog, her best friend and constant companion.

One fall day, they go for a walk and the woman throws sticks for the dog. She loves hearing the autumn leaves under her feet and the wind in the trees. She looks up at a crow in the sky and imagines what it might feel like to fly. As the wind comes up and the light begins to fade, she remembers playing outside as a child, never wanting to go in. Suddenly she notices a stunning harvest moon against the darkening sky. The next morning, as she sits outside to watch the sun rise, she looks forward to spending a new day with her friend.

Gentle illustrations accompany this portrayal of an elderly person who lives peaceably with her dog, appreciating what each moment brings.

Even the quietest patch of forest is filled with interesting things to observe for anyone who takes the time to look around them.

I adored the gentle atmosphere of this story. The main character and her dog were both getting older and moving more slowly than they used to. Seeing them take the time to marvel at the beautiful scenery around them on their walk made me smile. They were both good at spotting all of the little things that can make visiting the woods as the trees change colour and the wildlife gathers that last bit of food for the winter so rewarding.

There was some foreshadowing in the first few scenes that was never mentioned again as well as some pacing issues later on. Based on the foreshadowing, I thought the storyline would quickly pick up speed once the old woman and her dog came home from their walk. It was disappointing to see those hints go to waste as they were well written and would have given this picture book an extra layer of depth that could make it appealing to much older readers as well as younger ones.

The author did a good job of capturing what it feels like to go on a walk in the woods in the autumn when all of the plants and animals are busy preparing for winter. There is a subtle sense of expectancy in wild places during that season that isn’t always easy to capture, but she did so beautifully.

The Old Woman was a peaceful autumn read.

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