Author Lindsey McDivitt's welcome page on her website sums up the ABCs of a cause that is near and dear to her heart:
As Lindsey says, "I'm passionate about tackling the issue of ageism -- particularly in picture books. Unfortunately (and often unknowingly) we are teaching negative attitudes about older adults to very young children. Kids need realistic and positive images of old. We all do."
According to GeoBase, the estimated life expectancy of a child born in the United States in 2018 is 79.3 years. That's a lot of life! But the American culture is one that places a high value on youth.
"Negative stereotypes about aging are baked into our culture, and they're harmful to our health and happiness," Lindsey says. "Many books for kids lead them to believe that old = bad or sad. But that is adults socializing them to believe it."
In her own writing, as well as in her blog, "A Is for Aging," Lindsey seeks to promote positive images of growing older. I asked her about her new book, NATURE'S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY, and her quest to tackle ageism.
PT: Hello, Lindsey, and welcome to the GROG! You are passionate about healthy and positive images of older people in picture books. Do you think the characterizations of aging are improving these days?
LM: I do think it's improved somewhat, particularly with the popularity of picture book biographies perhaps. They often show kids long, satisfying lives and many accomplishments in late life. I love that!
Gwen suffered a debilitating illness as a child, but turned to nature and art for strength. Her persistence and independent spirit led her to study mechanical drawing and work in a bomber manufacturing plant during World War II. After the war, she started her own stationery company in Michigan and built the business by creating and selling her own linoleum block prints.
PT: Gwen Frostic worked until a few years before her death, one day shy of her 95th birthday. What do you think might have been her secret for a long, fulfilling career?
LM: Since childhood, Gwen refused to take in society's stereotypes telling her how she should live her life. She stayed focused on her goals and pursued them with dedication. So age simply wasn't a reason to stop.
PT: Her specialty was lovely linoleum block prints of nature. Have you ever tried your hand at linocuts or other art media?
LM: I recall trying linocuts way back in junior high school and enjoying them. They require slow, careful work! My main artistic endeavor is creating mobiles from driftwood I collect on the beaches of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.
PT: You've mentioned that you're drawn to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. What do you think attracts you to them?
LM: I believe it's their vastness. There's something about standing on the edge of an enormous body of fresh water. It's awe inspiring, much like the ocean, and gives me a sense of where I am on our beautiful planet.
|Lindsey's photo of Lake Superior|
Another absolute favorite is HARRY AND WALTER by author Kathy Stinson and illustrator QinLeng. The two main characters are the best of buddies separated by almost eight decades, and this picture book avoids every possible cliche!
Here's a link to five more picture book biographies that highlight older role models - http://www.lindseymcdivitt.com/2017/05/26/5-picture-book-biographies-highlight-older-role-models/
PT: Thank you, Lindsey! Many happy writing years to you!
As Lindsey says: "Role models matter!" Books that portray vibrant older people who continue to live full lives and pursue their passions are important for young readers. KidLit authors and illustrators can help by being thoughtful in our depictions of aging.
Find Lindsey's website here and her blog here. On Twitter, her handle is @AisforAging. On Instagram, mcdivittlindsey. Connect on her Facebook page at lindsey.mcdivitt.3.
** Readers, what's YOUR favorite book with older characters? Comment below for a chance to win a copy of NATURE'S FRIEND! **