Reviewed by Nikki Gamble
How Old Am I? A simple concept underpins this beautifully produced book – a gallery of 100 faces from around the world, with every age from 1 – 100 represented.
The original idea developed by French artist JR who has been taking photographs of people’s faces since he was sixteen. He writes:
When I was 21, I put up a huge picture of a person;s face on a wall in the suburbs of Paris. Soon I was taking pictures of people all around the world, printing them on huge sheets of paper and then pasting them onto the walls of all kinds of cities. Walls and streets are the perfect place to show art because then everyone gets to see them. It’s also a great way for people in my pictures to share their stories – their memories, their experiences, and the things that are important to them.
JR won the TED prize when he was 28 and this enabled him to fund the Inside Out Project. People from around the world sent in photographs which were sent back as large posters that could be displayed as street art. It’s a project that has travelled all over the world. JR hopes that this kind of art is optimistic, it gives people opportunities to talk with each other, to imagine each other’s stories, to see the commonality in experiences.
By Camlacaze – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42133168
The book How Old Am I? is developed from this project. The introduction is formed of four simple questions: What is your name? How old are you? Where do you live? What makes you happy? The next 100 pages follow a uniform format: a greeting, a name, a map showing where the subject comes from and a few words about them.
This is a book that has no age limit. Very young people enjoy looking at photographs of people and the simple presentation allows for discussion with children of all ages. It’s one for the reading corner and lends itself to small groups of children reading and discussing. Creative projects could involve a school or community based Inside Out project or perhaps an Inside Out collaboration with a school in another part of the country or world.
Formerly a teacher (secondary and primary) and university lecturer, with over 35 years’ experience, Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature now in its fourth edition (Sage, 2019) Co-author of Guiding Readers, winner of the UKLA Academic Book award (UCL, 2016). Nikki runs workshops for teachers, librarians, students and researchers on different aspects of children's literature, an online summer school and an Audience with events, celebrating writers and illustrators who have made an exceptional contribution to the world of children's books. Further information exploringchildrensliterature.uk