Cover image for The old woman & the wave
The old woman & the wave
Jackson, Shelley.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : DK Ink, [1998]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
An old woman finally comes to understand and appreciate the huge wave that has hung in the air, sheltering her house, all her life.
Reading Level:
AD 790 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.2 0.5 53462.

Reading Counts RC K-2 4.3 2 Quiz: 28535 Guided reading level: N.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books

On Order



The wave loves the old woman. That is why it waits on dry land, curled over her house, bent low to hear her every word. Most of these are grumpy, though, for the old woman has lived her whole life beneath the wave and therfore can see nothing good in it. Her roof is stuck like a pincushion with umbrellas, which she hopes will stem the drippings and droppings from above. But no. She and the wave go on with their lives until a wanderer appears and sees not the bother in the wondrous wave, but the possibilities. And then the old woman can see them, too, and together with her old dog Bones she flows away toward the blue and distant mountains, surging and plunging, swirling and climbing in a washtub boat she's had handy just in case the wave ever fell. It had fallen years ago: in love. The words and spectacular collage paintings make something majestic out of newfound vision -- an original way for sharing with young dreamers.

Author Notes

Shelley Jackson studied at Brown University and now lives in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-9. A large, greenish blue wave towers over the house of an old woman and her dog, Bones. The old woman sees the wave as an enemy and lives in constant fear that it will fall on her. She doesn't realize that the wave bends low to her because it loves her, and she doesn't appreciate the gifts it offers: she shouts, "Wasteful," when it gives her a fish, and she refuses to get up in the morning when "the light [runs] in liquid patterns across the walls" of her cottage to awaken her. A young woman who happens by points out that the wave could take someone away, but it isn't until Bones disappears on the top of the wave that the old woman finds out what the wanderer really means. Jackson's deftly written text moves between lyrical, lovely phrases describing the wild beauty of the wave and the acerbic, energetic speech of the tough, fearful woman. The collage illustrations are lively without being frenzied, incorporating photographs, torn and cut paper, paint, colored pencil, and words from many languages. They visually complement the text, as, for example, when a map on which Jackson has painted shows through under her picture of the departing wanderer. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

How does a person find courage to face her biggest fear? Jackson (Willy's Silly Grandma) explores this existential question with humor and sympathy, using her sophisticated collage art to create drama through a pastiche of characters and landscapes. The simple plot centers on an old woman whose house sits precariously under an enormous wave. The woman's crankiness hides her all-consuming fear of the wave and the life-threatening disaster she believes will happen at any second. Branding the wave "wasteful," "careless" and "clumsy," she pretends to ignore it until her more adventurous dog plunges into the metaphoric source of life. This is a "once upon a time" story in the true sense, in which fear of the unknown is never outgrown, but is, rather, faced and overcome. Jackson's artistry in telling the old woman's story works, as folktales do, to create an otherworldly landscape and the perspective needed to face life's "waves" fearlessly. By illustrating the tale with gloriously detailed word pictures (many contain phrases that are potential clues to the woman's liberation) Jackson may also inspire readers of all ages to take an artistic approach to problem solving. Even though the deeper meaning may be lost on young readers, there is plenty of drama and whimsy to keep the entertainment level high. Ages 4-7. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-3‘If Catherine Cowan's My Life with the Wave (Lothrop, 1997) whetted children's fancy, suggest this delightful story about another human interacting with a wave. An old woman has lived her whole life under a wave that hovers over her house. She is prepared with a boat in case it ever falls, but the daily drips and drops are a part of her routines. The wave loves the old woman, even though she has never noticed its beauty. When a young woman wanders along looking for work, the old woman sends her to the roof to patch the umbrellas that help keep it dry. As the stranger leaves, she observes that the swell "...could take someone a long way, if someone wanted to go." When her dog, Bones, prances into the wave and won't come back, the old woman takes her boat to fetch him, but the view from the crest gives her a new perspective on her world and beyond. Adults will love the underlying message and kids will love the frolicking, quirky story. Stylized collage illustrations incorporate map scraps and segments of type that play against the curl of the blue-green wave that undulates through the page design. The combination of whimsical illustrations and buoyant story make a refreshing splash.‘Julie Cummins, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.