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The Old Woman Who Named Things

The Old Woman Who Named Things

5.0 6
by Cynthia Rylant, Kathryn Brown (Illustrator)

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How does an old woman who has outlived all her friends keep from being lonely? By naming the things in her life she knows she will never outlive—like her house, Franklin, and her bed, Roxanne. When a shy brown puppy appears at her front gate, the old woman won’t name it, because it might not outlive her. Tender watercolors capture the charm of this


How does an old woman who has outlived all her friends keep from being lonely? By naming the things in her life she knows she will never outlive—like her house, Franklin, and her bed, Roxanne. When a shy brown puppy appears at her front gate, the old woman won’t name it, because it might not outlive her. Tender watercolors capture the charm of this heartwarming story of an old woman who doesn’t know she’s lonely until she meets a plucky puppy who needs a name—and someone to love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The unlikely protagonist of this quirky and tenderhearted story is a little old lady with cat glasses and a beehive who might have stepped out of The Far Side. Lonely, she names inanimate objects-her car is Betsy, her bed is Roxanne. A stray dog wanders into her life but she refuses to name it; after losing many friends "she named only those things she knew she could never outlive." When the dog disappears, however, she realizes that finding him-and subsequently naming him-is worth the risk of outliving him. Brown's (Boris) hilarious, disproportionate depictions of the cowboy-booted woman and her belongings give this tale much of its bounce. Betsy the car has grinning grillwork and huge fins; Fred the chair has buttons for eyes and a rearing, pompadour-like back cushion. This sweet and silly story has solid kid appeal and the Larsonesque visuals will tickle more than a few grown-ups. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Susan Fournier
Readers of all ages will identify with the old woman in this story. She is alone, saddened by the knowledge that she has outlived all of her friends. Trying to avoid loneliness, she begins to name some of her possessions. She calls her old bed "Roxanne." Her old chair is named "Fred." Her reliable car is named "Betsy." All of these things have something in common. They are things that she knows she will not outlive. This ordered existence suits the old woman until one day a stray puppy befriends her. Afraid to become attached to the puppy, the woman feeds it and sends it away. When the puppy's daily visits suddenly cease, the woman becomes worried and knows she must do something. She learns that sometimes you need to take a risk where love and friendship are concerned. Her search for the puppy leads the old woman to remember the important role that friendship has played in her life.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Having outlived all of her friends, an inventive elderly woman intends to outsmart loneliness by naming the significant inanimate objects in her life. Confident that she will never outlive any of them, she resides complacently with a sturdy armchair named Fred and a firm bed named Roxanne inside a well-built house named Franklin. One day, a stray brown puppy appears. She hesitantly offers scraps of food but no commitment of friendship. After a few months time, the persevering puppy grows up to be a shy brown dog, but the woman does not acquiesce. However, one day when the dog does not appear, she is filled with concern. After a valiant attempt to locate it on her own, she enlists the help of the local dogcatcher. The old woman then makes a quick but firm decision to provide the dog with a name, acknowledging his place in her affections. Oddly enough, she remains nameless throughout the story. Themes of resilience and acceptance help make the narrative meaningful. Brown's watercolor illustrations show the independent woman in her cozy, somewhat cluttered surroundings, and the engaging pup who is sure to win readers' hearts as he does hers. Although the premise of the story may be a bit sophisticated for younger children, the happy resolution is most satisfying. Lucky the children who meet Lucky.Mary Margaret Pitts, Boston Public Library, Hyde Park, MA
Kirkus Reviews
Once there was a woman who was so old that she had outlived all her friends. She doesn't like being all alone without anyone to call by name, so she names things, but only the ones she can't outlive: Her bed is Roxanne, her house is Franklin, her chair is Fred, and her car is Betsy. One day a shy brown puppy appears at the gate; she feeds him and tells him to go home. He comes every day, and she always feeds him, but she never, ever names him. The day the dog doesn't come to her gate is a sad one; when more days go by with no sign of him, the old woman knows what she must do.

Rylant (The Whales, p. 142, etc.) makes her humorous text spare and still, leaving plenty of room for the comedy in Brown's quirky watercolors. The old woman's hair is wound into an impossibly tall chignon; her cowboy boots are just as impossibly pointy. Betsy is a smiling 60s Chevy with fins, and the shy brown dog would worm its way into anyone's heart. Above all, the seaside cottage, riotous garden, and Rylant's words evoke a life that has been—and continues to be—lived well.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.10(d)
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Cynthia Rylant  is a Newbery medalist and the author of many acclaimed books for young people. She's well known for her popular characters for early readers, including Mr. Putter & Tabby and Henry & Mudge. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. www.cynthiarylant.com.


Kathryn Brown lives in western Massachusetts.

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The Old Woman Who Named Things 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Old Woman Who Named Things is one of the sweetest books I have ever read! It is a personal favorite of mine and my second grade students. Cynthia Rylant's words are beautiful! Everyone should read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My daughter has loved this book since she was about two years old. The story is sweet and funny while teaching kids about friendship, caring, loneliness and sharing. Very to easy to read over and over...which we do.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There was an old woman who loved to name things.She named her house,car,chair and bed.Once she found a shy brown dog.She loved the dog very much. One day the did not come. The old woman was unhappy and went in the car to go looking for it. What will happen to the puppy? Read to find out. The author's purpose is that friends are very important. I really loved this book. I hope you like it too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Old woman who named things is about an old woman. She had no friends she could call by name she had out lived all of them. So she named things she could not out live. So she called her old car Betsy. Her chair she sat in every morning Fred. her house that stood sraight for over a 100 years Franklin. Last but not least her bed she slept in every night Roxanne. One day when she was washing off Betsy she saw a shy-brown dog by her gate. she got some food for the puppy and told it to go home. and went on for months.Then a few days th puppy didn't come. I think Cynthia Rylant, the author, wanted to tell her readers that even though new she can out live the puppy, she can still name the puppy. Also because she loves the puppy very much. i like the book because Cynthia Rylant made the ok quite funny. Also I like it because it was well written. Also the pitures went with the book perfectly. I wanted to know what would happen to the puppy, so I continued to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very sweet story which my kids in class love to have read to them. There is a little twist at the end that some students figure out. I use it for helping students learn how to make predictions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book with a heartwarming story and a great message. I love, love, love the illustrations. I want to be just like the old woman when I am her age.