Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant



52. The Old Woman Who Named Things
by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Kathryn Brown
children's book, 1996
library book fourteen
finished, 10/10/12






I 'met' Cynthia Rylant when my children were little. My very favorite is one I wrote about last year, The Children of Christmas. Whenever I read one of her books, I feel an ache, and my eyes fill up, even if a story ends happily. Her people are often on the fringe; the ones the rest of us don't always notice or pay attention to. The old, the homeless, the sad. She captures them. She makes them real to her readers, and I like to think that children gain compassion through the reading of her books. In this one, the woman is quite old. She lives alone, and she has
outlived every single one of her friends. … She didn't like the idea of being a lonely old woman without any friends, without anyone whom she could call by name.
So, she names things, but
only those things she knew she could never outlive.
Her car is Betsy. Her chair is Fred. Her bed is Roxanne. Her house is Franklin. 

And then one day, a puppy appears at her gate. She thinks he looks hungry so she gives him a little food, and then tells him to go home. This happens every day. She thinks about the puppy, but doesn't dare to let it stay because 

'she might outlive it. She didn't want to risk that. She didn't want to outlive any more friends.'
We understand that woman's pain and her fear. After a while, the pup grows up. He still comes each day, until one day he doesn't. She calls the dogcatcher and asks if there is a shy brown dog there, and is told there are many. He asks her,
"Was yours wearing a collar with its name on it?"
When she hangs up the phone, she begins to feel very badly.
Wherever it was, no one would know that it was supposed to come to the old woman's gate every day. … The shy brown dog had no collar and no name, and no one would ever be able to know these things about it.
She proceeds to the dogcatcher's place, and tells him she has 'come to find my dog.' When asked its name
The old woman thought a moment. She thought of all the old, dear friends with names whom she had outlived. She saw their smiling faces and remembered their lovely names, and she thought how lucky she had been to have known these friends. She thought what a lucky old woman she was.
"My dog's name is Lucky," she told the dogcatcher.
We read of their adventures together, and the book ends



The illustrations by Kathryn Brown really capture the kind of person the 'old woman' is. Look at those cowboy boots!


 And that wild hair!


 May we all grow old with such spirit, and a good, good dog.

30 comments:

  1. What a fabulous story, I really must buy this book if it is still available. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

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    1. I am so, so happy you want to buy it. It is really wonderful.

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  2. What a lovely sounding book! I'm going to see if my library has it. Thanks!

    Diane in North Carolina

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    1. It is lovely. I'm so pleased you want to read it.

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  3. Loved your post on this book.

    And I'm starting to find it quite creepy that every year you and I read at the same rate. I too have almost finished book 52...

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    1. Not creepy. I've had such a funny reading year. As have you, it seems. :<) Kindred spirits, my dear.

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  4. What a sweet sweet book. Off to wish list it for my grand daughters collection. Thank you Nan

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    1. Yes, it is. So pleased you'll buy it for your granddaughter. NIce for you to read to her.

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  5. I want to read this book, but haven't been able to find it....must remember to put a request in to the Library.

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  6. I wonder whether there is a German translation. It sounds like something the little ones at the kindergarden where my Mum reads once a week would enjoy.

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    1. I don't know if her work is translated.

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  7. I had never heard of this author. Wish I had with my boys! My library has 212 books by her! Will read them with my grandkids.

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  8. Oh, beautiful! Just reading your review made me teary.

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    1. That's just how the book made me feel.

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  9. This one sounds just right for me - love the cowboy boots - put a hold on it at my library

    I'm finding all around me lately books and news about getting old - hhhmmmm? On the news this morning was a couple (84 and 85) who'd just came back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

    thanks for this one, Nan

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    1. Maybe because the baby-boomers are getting older?? I always like to read about people older than me.
      I wouldn't have climbed Mount K. even at 24! That's truly amazing to me.

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  10. I have very fond memories of Cynthia Rylant from back in the day, when my children were little. I just took a peek at this book on Amazon and added it to my Wish List. Coincidentally, I have a doggy named Lucky! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. She is such a wonderful writer. I plan to read all the library has to offer. There are many that have come out since my kids were little.
      Love the dog's name!

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  11. I have this book! (and about 2,000 others, ha ha)I love the art ~ and I name things too! :))))

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  12. What a delightful book and great description of the author's works.

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    1. It is truly wonderful, as is everything I've read by her. I plan to read a lot more.

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  13. Nan, thank you for telling me about this book.
    I am going to order for "me" and my granddaughter's
    A happy book.
    Maybe I am that old woman :)

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  14. I am a long time Rylant fan myself. I love every story I've read by her, and have the same teary-eyed response of which you wrote. I think it is how she touches deep truths that really matter that stirs my emotions. I have not read this one yet. Thank you for sharing these snippets. I will be looking for this one.

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    1. So, so nice to hear from you. I stopped by your blog just the other day. Looking forward to more news.
      I've been happy to learn there are so many by her which I haven't read. I love what you wrote. She does 'touch deep truths.'

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  15. Love this review, Nan. I'm going to buy myself a copy to share with Shay. For some reason, it reminded me of Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Maybe just the illustrations.

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    1. I can understand the connection. Both older women with spirit. Both wonderful books for children and adults.

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