When we decided to have our bimonthly theme on Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age, I just know that this book, one of my absolute favourites, is one of the perfect picture books to feature and share with everyone.
This is one of the earlier books that I own and one of the many reasons why I fell in love with children’s literature. I read this aloud to my group of teacher-students as we talk about valuing and respecting cultural differences and how a child deals with grief and taking on greater responsibilities.
Annie’s Grandma is as Old as Time. More than a glimpse to Navajo culture, this book also speaks about the love between grandmother and grandchild, the stories and laughter shared, and wisdom passed down from one generation to the next:
Sometimes it seemed to Annie that her grandmother was her age – a girl who had seen no more than nine or ten harvestings.
If a mouse skittered and jerked across the hard dirt floor of their hogan, Annie and her grandmother laughed together.
The Old One’s time on Earth though is limited and she would constantly remind Annie: “It is time you learn to weave, my granddaughter.” Yet, the time never seemed right for Annie. She would stare at her mother’s big loom and note the rhythmic sliding of the weaving stick among the warp strings, but her consciousness would always be somewhere else. And then one day, after the evening meal, Grandmother called everyone inside to make this announcement:
“My children, when the new rug is taken from the loom, I will go to Mother Earth.”
Annie shivered and looked at her mother.
Her mother’s eyes were shining bright with tears that did not fall, and Annie knew what her grandmother meant. Her heart stood still and she made no sound.
The Old One spoke again.
“You will each choose the gift that you wish to have.”
Annie’s mother explained that many of the “Old Ones” know: “Your grandmother is one of those who live in harmony with all nature – with earth, coyote, birds int he sky. They know more than many will ever learn. those Old Ones know.”
Ancient Wisdom, Weaving Sticks, and Letting Go. Annie can not understand why her own mother continues to weave the new rug when it would signify the passing away of her grandmother. And so Annie does all that she could – being naughty in school, releasing their family’s sheep across the sand, and undoing her mother’s work during the day, unraveling the woven rug – just so she could get time to stand still.
When her grandmother realized what Annie was doing, the Old One spoke these beautiful words and passed on wisdom from the ages, as old as the moonlight. I would always tear up whenever I read this part aloud:
“My granddaughter,” she said, “you have tried to hold back time. This cannot be done.” The desert stretched yellow and brown away to the edge of the morning sky. “The sun comes up from the edge of earth in the morning. It returns to the edge of earth in the evening. Earth, from which good things come for the living creatures on it. Earth, to which all creatures finally go.”
Annie picked up a handful of brown sand and pressed it against the palm of her hand. Slowly, she let it fall to earth. She understood many things.
The sun rose but it also set.
The cactus did not bloom forever. Petals dried and fell to earth. She knew that she was a part of the earth and the things on it. She would always be a part of the earth, just as her grandmother had always been, just as her grandmother would always be, always and forever.
And Annie was breathless with the wonder of it.
How the story ends and whether Annie finally learned how to weave, I shall leave for you to discover.
Teacher Resources. Here is a weblink of a lesson plan prepared by teacherlink that teachers may be able to make use of. This is a free seven-[aged downloadable .doc resource on teaching indigenous resource that may also be helpful.
Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles and Illustrated by Peter Parnall. A Trumpet Club Special Edition, 1971. Bought my own copy of the book.
Annie and the Old One is a Newbery Honor Book.
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 34 of 35
Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 154 (150)