April 24, 2014

My 10 Favorite 'Old Lady' Characters

It's time for another list, don't you think? As a complement to my list of favorite 'old guy' characters (you can find that HERE), I think it's only appropriate that we have a list of my favorite 'old lady' characters from children's literature. I apologize to all you ladies out there, young and old, that this list did not come first. But hey, I'm a guy, what do you expect?

Before we begin, I have a couple of disclaimer-like notes. Most of the lady characters on my list are from picture books. I have nothing against novels. I love novels too. But since I teach third grade, I use picture books more often, thus their abundance here. Also, I don't claim this list to be any-sort-of-comprehensive, nor do I claim that the characters are the "best" at anything. I just like them a lot, along with the stories in which they live.

Now let's get on with it. In no particular order, here are my ten favorite old lady characters from children's books:

Nana Upstairs
from Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, by Tomie dePaola
We're starting off with a bit of a tear-jerker, here. Spoiler alert... Nana Upstairs passes away during this story (so does Nana Downstairs, for that matter). But fear not, you will love this story and the clever little nuggets of personality that we see in Tommy's great-grandmother. I particularly love when she gets tied into her chair.

Miss Nancy Allison Delacourt Cooper
from Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox
Poor Miss Nancy has lost her memory, but has found a great friend in innocent little Wilfrid, who helps her get her memories back. Wilfrid and Nancy both have four names--how could they not become friends? A story of a friendship that goes beyond the bounds of age.

Anna's Grandma
from The Wednesday Surprise, by Eve Bunting
I'm not sure I could have a list without a book by Eve. Anna and her Grandma have a special relationship and are working together on a surprise to show their family, though it ends up being a surprise for the readers too! I love the perseverance and determination that Anna's Grandma shows.

Sarah 
 from The Mitten Tree, by Candace Christiansen
Old Sarah is one of the most complicated old ladies I know. I've read this story dozens of times, and it seems like I find a new layer to this character each time. At times I feel sorry for her, and at times I am proud of her, and at other times I am surprised by her. I read this story to my class every winter.

The Old Woman
 from The Old Woman Who Named Things, by Cynthia Rylant
One of my favorite books of all time here. Even this stubborn old lady's heart can be softened by, you guessed it, a dog. A great example of a picture book with a main character who goes through quite the transformation, but without losing her identity. Leave it to Cynthia to create such a quirky old gal.

Nicky's Grandma
from The Raft, by Jim LaMarche
Nicky's grandma isn't quite your "normal" grandma. She's a bit eccentric and creative and unexpected. It's good to have people who break the mold, right? This story is a great example of a relationship that grows and blooms in a realistic way.

Gran
from The Hickory Chair, by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Gran is a character that you just don't forget. She stays with you. Even one reading of The Hickory Chair and she will make an impression on you. Gran really knows how to make someone feel special in her own clever ways, and even when she's not around in person to do it.

The Old Lady
from I Know a Lady, by Charlotte Zolotow
Whenever I read this story to my students, they are always making connections to old ladies that they know. I love when an author is able to create a character that causes so many readers to reach into their memories and connect with someone that they know from their own lives.

Grandma
from The Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen
This grandma is by far the funniest old lady on my list. She is unpredictable and random but totally sure of herself, though not many others are very sure of what she's talking about. She's a supporting character in this novel, but she steals the show whenever she pops in.

Gloria Dump
from Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Tell me you've read this book. Kate has an amazing ability to create memorable characters, and Gloria Dump is most definitely one of them. She's wise and gentle, but she also carries with her the pain of past mistakes, making her even more real. You had me at "Dump," Kate; you had me at "Dump."

* * *

And there you have them. Quite the group, right? Can't you just imagine them all playing bridge together, sipping sweet tea, sharing pictures from their purses of all the children they made feel special, or of the children that helped them feel special.

Now it's your turn. Who did I miss? I know, I know, the old lady who swallowed a fly, right? Anyone else? Comment below, and add to the list. I could always use a new book to read!





4 comments:

  1. I really love the grandmother in A Very Unusual Dog, do you know that story? It's written by Dorothy Joan Harris and it's all about this little boy who has an imaginary dog and his sister is constantly questioning him about the dog's actual existence, but he just keeps on believing. Then they go visit their grandmother and she totally believes in the dog and she's an awesome character. She makes the story. I love your other choices and I think you'd love this book too. Just thought I'd tell you about it. I'm a new follower:)

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  2. Leslie,
    Thank you SO much for the recommendation! I just put it on my summer reading list! It sounds like my kind of book :)

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  3. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is one of my perennial favorites! - Karyn

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  4. I didn't realize that I had such a soft spot for "old lady" books until reading this post! I too enjoy reading about Nana Upstairs being tied to her chair! I saw some favorites on this list and I now have a few more to look up. :)

    Casey
    Second Grade Math Maniac

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