The Wise Old Woman

Ages 5-8. Uchida retells an old Japanese folktale with quiet intensity. The cruel, young village lord decrees that people over 70 are useless and must be taken to the mountains to die. A young farmer cannot bear to abandon his mother, so he hides her deep in a cave beneath the kitchen. One day when the village is threatened by a mighty conqueror, the wisdom of the hidden old woman saves the people; then respect and honor are restored for all of the aged. The stylized airbrush-and-ink illustrations in strong shades of purple, brown, and blue have the elegance and fluidity of traditional Japanese prints. The changing perspectives express the reversals of the story as the woman, once a fugitive, gets to take center stage. (
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Margaret K. McElderry
New York
ISSN Number
Average: 5 (1 vote)


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The Wise Old Woman

Field of Interest/Specialty: Kindergarten
Posted On: 01/07/2018

The Wise Old Woman written by Yoshiko Uchida and illustrated by Martin Springett tells a wonderful story about family. It shows us how to respect the older people in our society.
The cruel young lord of the village states that anyone over the age of seventy is useless and must be taken up the mountain to be left to die. As this young man is taking his mother up the mountain he is overcome with grief about leaving her. He takes her back home and hides her under the house for two years, until her wisdom is needed for her son to solve three impossible tasks. Another cruel lord threatens to destroy the village unless someone can answer the three tasks. The wise old woman is the only one who is able to solve the tasks, proving that with age comes wisdom. Because of this the lord changes his mind about the elderly and does away with the rule requiring the older people of the village to go up to the mountain.
The colorful and detailed illustrations are beautiful. They look like paintings that lift the story right off the page. The paintings show the Japanese culture and landscape.
This story would be appropriate for Pre-Kindergarten students through upper elementary students. This book could be used to teach the students about family. It specifically addresses the issue of the respect and honor due our elders, such as our parents and grandparents. The story also illustrates the wisdom that comes with age and life experience. This book could be used in reading, religion, social studies and science. I highly recommend this book for teachers to use as a teaching tool in their classes or to adapt for use with any student.