57th Street Books' Angela Sherrill picks 3 little old ladies.

I'm happy to welcome a new set of picks from 57th Street Books' children's buyer and bookseller (and my3books' contributing editor) Angela Sherrill.


Three Little Old Ladies 

Over the years, I've been asked for books on many subjects.  One memorable topic I researched and gathered books for was for a local organization who specialized in working with children whose parents, for whatever reason, were not their primary caregiver. Instead, these children were cared for by elderly grandparents.  The organization was in need of books that:

  1. Represented the elderly in a positive light
  2. Showed healthy relationships between young people and the elderly and
  3. Books in which children with this family structure could find comfortable and understanding characters. 

A year or so after working on this project, a display idea started to form:  I should do a display featuring some of these wonderful elderly characters that appear in children's literature. Last week, I watched the Disney/Pixar movie UP, in which the main characters are aged, have a full back story, and relate humorously with the younger characters.  After thoroughly enjoying the movie, I decided now was, indeed, the time to tell you about my 3 favorite “little old lady” picture books. Why wait?  They aren't getting any younger, and in publishing, their fate may be the often unforgiving status: Out of Print.

This Little Old Lady Eats Socks 

Martha Moth Makes Socks
written & illustrated by Cambria Evans
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618557455 | $16 | Apr 2006

One could argue that Martha, may in fact, not be a little old lady.  The first objection would be the word little.  Martha is a moth of some size. Second, she has neither gray/white hair or is described as a particular age. But c'mon! Her friends are named Flora and Flit. She appears to live alone. She wears an oversized coat, and carries a purse AND umbrella with her when she goes out.  If you're not convinced, read it for yourself.  I recommend you do so, anyway, because this is a truly delightful picture book.

Martha is a nice lady moth who has a bit of a hunger. Because she is a moth, she finds fabrics and dust most palatable.  When she discovers she is out of both (fabric and dust), she heads to the store to pick up more before her birthday guests arrive. Martha ends up sampling a bit more of these delicious treats while preparing dinner (what home cook can't relate to that?) and ends up with little more than a few itchy socks to serve her friends.  But, don't worry. All is well that ends well.

After reading this book I wanted to be or befriend Martha and her buggy pals.  This book makes a great gift for home cooks and foodies, too.  Share it with friends young and old and delight in Evans' illustrations of Martha Moth and her birthday misadventure.


This Little Old Lady Takes Baths 

Estelle Takes a Bath
written by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
Henry Holt | 9780805077413 | $16.95 | Oct 2006 

Right away, I fell in love with Estelle and her cozy little home.  She sips green tea, does crossword puzzles, has rhinestone cat-eye glasses, striped galoshes, a shower cap, candle sconces, and froggy wall paper.  If you don't fall for the illustrations at first sight, you will when you read the story.

One snow-storming day, Estelle is unwittingly followed back inside her house by a mouse. She makes tea and hops into a nice warm bath.  The mouse, drawn by the scent of her peppermint bubbles, climbs the tub in an unintentionally frightful greeting.  Estelle screams and gallivants about trying to catch the mouse—all in the buff! When the mouse falls into the bath and Estelle realizes he can't swim, her sympathy swells and the unwanted guest ends up sharing her bubbles.

The text has a bouncing rhyme that engages children during story times and multiple retellings.  The illustrations are perfect. And, while I've received the rare complaint or two about Estelle's naked bum, I have to say the sight of this particular little old lady's heiney warms my heart.


This Little Old Lady Gets a Pet

written & Illustrated by Linas Alsenas
Scholastic Books | 9780439779807 | $16.99 | Aug 2007 

Everything about Alsenas' little old lady book is wonderful.  Just to be fair, I'm a sucker for colored pencil on white background.  Something about the contrast just says "classic picture book" to me.  I find myself drawn to the fun, simple drawings of Felicia Bond's mice, Olivier Dunrea's geese, and Alsenas' simple, clean pictures enhance the story with humor and joy. We share this fun book with pet owners of all ages.

Mildred is most definitely a little old lady.  Her gray hair is pulled away from her face and her clothing and handbags are blasts from the past. What makes this little old lady special, and the story such a funny one, is her failing eyesight.  Mildred meets what she assumes is a lost puppy in the park, but what the images tell us is a small elephant.  Mildred names the puppy Peanut, and they get along well.  When Mildred is confronted by Peanut's true home and owner, she returns him despite her own heartbreak and loneliness.  

There's lots of laughs in this book and this little old lady with wonderful intentions and terrible vision will win you over in the first few pages.  The plus for dog owners is a full spread of humans who look strikingly and hilariously like their four-legged friends.  Don't miss it. It's a hoot!

The Final Word: 

Share one of these picture books where the main character is a little old lady and bring joy to all ages.


Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books, Chicago