Everyone is waking up to start the day. The children get ready for school. The old man must wake up, too. He’s sleeping rough on the streets and must leave before he’s shooed away.
Sparse text and quickly stroked illustrations allow readers to drift through with a sense of bewilderment similar to the one surrounding the old man at the center of the story. He is unseen by everyone unless they move him along from wherever he’s resting. A combination of embarrassment and trepidation keeps him away from crowds of people. When he goes to the shelter for food, being asked his name—“He doesn’t remember”—causes him to override his hunger to escape an awkward situation. “Easier to leave.” He drifts through the city, looking for a place to warm up, something to eat, until finally, at the end of the book, a little girl offers him her sandwich. She giggles, saying he looks like a teddy bear. This kindness, this acknowledgement by another human being, fills him with enough warmth that he returns to the shelter, and when asked his name, he says, “Teddy.” The softness of the pencil used to illustrate the story fits perfectly the tenderness of the little girl and of the old man himself, who responds to her kindness with unadulterated gratitude and happiness. The gorgeous sepia-and-gray tones of the illustrations reinforce the mood; all the characters seem to have pale skin.
This is an extraordinary book, one that can make the needed connection for young children to see human beings as more than their circumstances. (Picture book. 5-6)