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The Old Woman Who Named Things

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  1,317 ratings  ·  141 reviews
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 a ...more
Paperback, 32 pages
Published August 1st 2000 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published April 1st 1996)
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55th out of 65 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

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Gosh darn it! Cynthia Rylant's work always makes me reach for a tissue. Only this time, she's made me want to reach for one of my grandma's handkerchiefs—the sweet old-fashioned ones of gentle fabric scattered with flowers and lace that got handed down to me--and give it a big hug.

The Old Woman in the story names things... because she has outlived all her friends and she is afraid to befriend anything that won't outlive her. She has named her car, her bed, her chair, her house--they are all ver
Lisa Vegan
Jul 19, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who’s ever loved a dog, or loved anyone, or lost anyone
Recommended to Lisa by: Kathryn
The illustrations are outstanding, many beautiful enough to be paintings on a wall.

The story’s message of opening up to love another despite the potential for hurt and loss is a good one. Though it has a happy ending, the whole story is permeated by a kind of melancholy. It’s also mildly amusing because all the objects that are given names by this old woman.

It’s the kind of book that generally makes me tear up, but I think this one was a tad too sad for that reaction, if that makes any sense. I
At first I didn't think I was going to like this book. The illustrations don't do much for me; the moral is on the obvious side; it's about old age, which I don't care for (as a literary theme; actual old people I'm fine with). However, the shy brown puppy was so touching I couldn't hold out against it. And it isn't really about old age, it is about the fear of loss and hurt and how it cripples our lives. Even with the happy ending the lost year of puppyhood that the old lady and dog could have ...more
Kimbely Fletcher
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 ...more
I would give this book two and a half stars.
As always, Cynthia Rylant has written a touching story of friendship and the hope of renewal, allowing us to see the world of loneliness and the warmth of a new friend's presence through the eyes of an old woman who has seen all of her contemporary friends pass away while she still lives. The old woman (who remains nameless in the pages of this book) is reluctant to make a new friend that might also pass away before she does, but the presence of a li
Cute little book that we have read over and over again. The names the old woman comes up with are funny.
Ms. Gappa
I absolutely adore this book! This book was about an old woman who named things around her house that she knew she would outlive. One day, a cute little brown dog comes up her gate to beg for food. She realizes over time that she struggles with keeping the dog out of fear of outliving it.
Will she keep it or will she tell it TO GO BACK HOME?!?!?!
Read on to find out, you won't be disappointed.

The theme of this book was ACCEPTANCE and the lesson learned was appreciate the little things in life be
Katherine Fountain
As an animal lover, I completely understood this story and it was so heart warming. An old woman has outlived all of her friends and is hesitant to let other people in her life for fear of losing them too. She begins naming inanimate objects around her house, like her bed. She does not realize how lonely she really is until a dog continues to come to her house everyday. The dog helps feel the void in the old woman's life. This book could help with the topic of losing loved ones or even how anima ...more
Mary-Kate Ganssle
Title: The Old Woman Who Named Things
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Kathryn Brown
Date of Publication: 1996
Genre: Fiction

This story is about an old woman who has outlived all of her friends. She has decided to name things that she knows she will not outlive, as cannot take saying goodbye again. One day a small brown puppy comes to her door and she struggles with the idea of keeping him out of the fear of outliving him, so she feeds him and instructs him to go home. She continues to d
Courtney Dyer
Beloved children’s book author Cynthia Rylant brings to life a tender, heartwarming story about a little old lady who is coping with the difficulties of growing old. The gentle watercolor illustrations perfectly complement this endearing tale that young and old alike are sure to fall in love with.

Once there was an old woman who outlived every single one of her friends. To keep from feeling lonely, she names the things around her that she knows she could never outlive- like her bed “Roxanne,” her

This story is about a lonely woman who has no friends. Her friends were her things. Then one day a stray puppy came by her house. She told it to shoo. But she gave the puppy food and the puppy left. This happened for a while. The woman never named it because she knew some day it would it would die. Her things wouldn't. Then one day the puppy didn't come by. She didn't know what to do. So she went to the pound. "What's its name?" Asked a man. The lady was trapped. She never had named the dog. So

Leslie Kress
I thought this was a nice story. The story has fun and interesting illustrations. I thought the most powerful thing about this book was the message of the risks you have to take to find love and happiness and the power of happy memories. I was drawn in to the story when the old woman could not find the puppy. She realized it was more important to give him a name, a home and love as opposed to worrying about getting hurt by outliving him. I would recommend this story because I think it is engagin ...more
Emma Daugherty
This book by Kathryn brown has many beautiful themes that children can learn from. There are themes of age and loss and also themes of loneliness. The old lady in this story reminds me of my grandmother because she names things and I assume is also very lonely sometimes. The story ends happily and can teach kids that loss is difficult but that sometimes the pain is worth the love that comes before it. The painted water color pictures also beautifully follow along with the story, giving the reade ...more
This is a rather strange subject to introduce to children in a picture book: old age, loneliness and having outlived all the friends. Yet this book grew on me, with its gentle, matter of fact story line. I'm still not sure however what business it has with kids, but it's a lovely book, and I was very sympathetic to the old woman, who with her cowboy boots, the tall bun on top of her head, and a unique, eccentric sense of fashion, must have something of an interesting character. And I liked the f ...more
This book should be first read with a child as the concept is a deep one if they are to truly understand what is really going on. The old woman only names things that she knew she could never outlive. The fear of attachment seems to be something she avoids as she gets older and things didn't last and people pasted away. She has attached names to her car, her house, her bed and her chair as these four items are the only things she believes will outlive her, so she takes great pleasure in naming t ...more
The story has an unusual premise among picture books (or any book sitting in the juvenile fiction section). However, this isn’t one of those books to help you or your child understand how life can be for the elderly among us. You could use it that way, but the book truly is for anyone who has experienced lonely and outliving some one or thing you find precious to your own existence. Good friends moving away, or pets, or relatives…any one you have to go on living without and must find some new co ...more
Aubrey White
Picture books are written to be read together, with a child on your lap or children gathered together on the rug. They have the power to open up a shared space, for a brief moment, among readers experiencing them together. I'd read this book before, and I wasn't thrilled when Josiah picked it out, so I was quite surprised when it provided one of those moments. We got to the page when the dog doesn't show for the first time, and Rylant reminded us once again that the dog was not named. To make su ...more
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. And Bud, the new ceramic pig in her garden. Then a shy brown puppy appears at her front gate. If the old woman is too friendly, the puppy might stay, and she will have to name it. She can't risk that. So she tells it to go home. But that puppy has other ideas... (summary from book jacket)

Potential Audienc
Vicki Kier
Fearful of losing any more names in her life, a lonely woman lives quietly with inanimate companions she has named: her house Franklin, her car Betsy, her bed Roxanne. When a stray puppy wanders to her gate one day, she doesn't turn him away--or name him. Rylant's lovely poetic prose makes for a beautiful read-aloud. Kathryn Brown's rendering of the main character as a quirky, cowboy-wearing, bun-donning elderly woman temper other characteristics of the woman's shrunken features which might frig ...more
I really liked this book. When I first picked it up, I was worried that it was going to be sad. Thankfully it wasn't. The illustrations are terrific and I'm really looking forward to sharing this book with my fifth grade students. I'm anxious to know what they think of it and what messages they'll take away from it.
** this book is about an old lady who never named anything expect for things that werent alive because she didnt want to get close to someone and then lose them like she did her husband. but one day she found a dog and she finally named that dog and got close to it. this is a great book to read to kids because it talks a little about death and losing someone. i would read it to a 1st or even a 2nd grade class.

this book is very heartfelt and i thought very moving. the old woman only named thing
Amanda Pemberton
Heartwarming story about an old woman who names inanimate objects that will all most definitely outlive her, so that she won't ever be lonely. She finds a stray pup at her gate and doesn't know if she should name have to read this book and look at the amazing illustrations to know what she decides.
A softly sad childrens book about a woman trying to deal with/trying to avoid dealing with her eventual death, and the end of other things in life as well. It is a gentle book that kids can listen to or read and maybe ask some questions. Do not doubt, adults: they will be hard questions.
Madison Stockton
This book just spoke to me, and I don't know why. The old lady was so thoughtful and so invested in her material friends because she was scared of loneliness. The fact that this sort of theme is present in a picture book is really impressive and really unique.
Gordon Pennington
An old lady has outlived all of her friends. She now names things around her house (including her house) that she knows she will never outlive. A little, shy dog comes along one day and helps her get over her fear of losing loved ones. At first she does not want to name the dog because it would be too risky. One day when the dog does not come along, she worries and misses him. She eventually finds him and names him “Lucky” because she realizes how lucky she was to have all of her friends. This i ...more
Have I been loving under a rock? How are there so many amazing Cynthia Rylant books that I haven't discovered yet? I need to buy this one (like all her others) and use it as a writing prompt.
Gail Barge
This book makes me so sad! The old woman in the story seems so lonely, it makes me want to be her friend. This story reminds me of so many of the elderly people I see living in nursing homes I once volunteered in. Often young students do not understand that loneliness involved in getting older, especially when friends and spouses pass away. I would read this book to students working with elderly students in a volunteer program to explain why it is important to take care of and form bonds with th ...more
I loved this book because it is a kindness tale about a lady who is elderly and outlived all her friends. She is scared to outlive anyone else so she names her furniture, car, and house by a first name because she knows she won't outlive her things. Ultimately, she is lonely and finds a nice dog to be her friend. I put this book in the Four Resource Model shelf because a teacher can use this book to discuss critical practices. What does this text do for me? Or, what does this text cause me to qu ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Crista added it
Shelves: kids-books
I really loved this book. My younger son overheard me reading it to my older and asked me to read it to him, too. The message is beautifully delivered.
Kelli Bratten
Finally read a Cynthia Rylant book after reading so much about her texts' in Wonderous Words! A lovely story that was sad at the beginning but she found a friend in the end. I am using it now to teach a lesson on different nouns. I would also use it to teach proper nouns as well. Also, I think it's important to read it in order to discuss emotions; the old woman is lonely and worried and I think it's important for students to realize that many people have these feelings at all ages. It would giv ...more
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An author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and young adults as well as an author and author/illustrator of picture books for children, Cynthia Rylant is recognized as a gifted writer who has contributed memorably to several genres of juvenile literature. A prolific author who often bases her works on her own background, especially on her childhood in the West Virginia mountains, she ...more
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