With homelessness being at the forefront of the news at the moment, ‘The Old Man’ is a timely addition to a topic that rarely features in children’s (and especially picture) books.
Beginning with children waking in their homes and getting ready for school, the story cuts to a bundle on the pavement who is getting up too – our old man.
Although sparsely worded, the soft watercolour pencil illustrations carry us through his day; homeless, jobless, lonely and uncared for, unable even to remember his name.
Finally, hope comes in the innocence of a child – offering him a sandwich and, unknowingly, a name.
This is a beautiful, gentle and moving story (suitable for readers from 5-year olds right up to adults) about a dark and often ignored subject. It reminds us that the homeless that we see on the streets are people; we may not know their backgrounds or how they came to be there (any more than we do of the old man), but that shouldn’t stop us from offering them warmth, kindness and hope – just like the small child did.
The Old Man is truly a lovely book, charming and raw in its honesty. The images will definitely stay with me; they make me want to share this story with anyone and everyone, child and adult, as I believe it is a narrative that we can all learn from.