8 Great Stories on Age and Intergenerational Connections

by Eileen Chen

It is my pleasure to contribute to VACS’s ongoing theme about age and intergenerational dialogue with some of my favourite stories to recommend! In putting together this list, I threw in not only novels, but also children’s picture books and movies that celebrate the beauty of aging and dialogue. I think picture books work especially well for this theme, given how often they are read by parent or grandparent to child and the timeless motifs that they carry.

1. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

60-year-old widower Ove is a man of principles, better known in the neighbourhood as “the bitter neighbour from hell.” Enter his new neighbours, a couple dubbed by Ove as the “Lanky One” and the “Pregnant One,” along with two bouncy daughters. Whimsical, sharp, wholesome, and poignant, A Man Called Ove is not your typical story about saving an aging man from loneliness. It’s about lending such a man a hand in saving the world.

2. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

How about some moody, spunky intergenerational conflict and conversation – with yourself? Oona Lockhart is supposed to turn 19 on her birthday on New Year’s Eve, but instead, she wakes up in her 55-year-old body, and continues to cycle through random ages each year. Through the notes she leaves herself at different ages and from conversations with the loved ones who stick around, Oona chooses to learn only enough about her present to keep herself going. Life is too short for spoilers!

3. Recipes for Gingerbread Children by Michael Beyer

This is a bit of a wildcard, as the novel is self-published and available only by purchase from the author. Recipes for Gingerbread Children is a wild but heart-warming tale about a group of children discovering a magical world through the cookies baked by an old German woman, whose special abilities are intertwined with Holocaust tragedies… You can find it on Amazon through this link.

4. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Anybody else had this read to them as a kid? Love You Forever is an endearing and beautifully illustrated tale about embracing each stage of life, as well as inheriting love and passing it on. Check out this reading of it by the author himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ES-fp2fdzk&ab_channel=Mezmorize

5. Grandpa’s Soup by Eiko Kadono

This was one of the most memorable picture books of my childhood, as well as one of the first recipes I’ve ever tried to cook (with mom’s help!). Grandpa’s Soup tells the story of an elderly grandfather on a quest to recreate his late wife’s meatball soup. Each time he cooks the recipe, an unexpected guest pops up to enjoy the soup and inspire another ingredient! Whether you read this with your kids or feel like checking it out yourself, I very much recommend the recipe too.

6. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Amos McGee is an elderly zookeeper with an important daily routine. When he gets sick one day, the animals come together with a sweet surprise… A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a quiet story that will nonetheless keep kids in anticipation. Refreshing and unpedantic, Stead’s story is about celebrating small moments of connection and learning to give back kindness.

7. Millennium Actress, dir. Satoshi Kon

A TV interviewer and his cameraman meet a famous retired actress to record her life story. As the aging actress, Chiyoko, tells her story, the line between spectator and actor are blurred, and reality unravels into a lurid blend of history and fantasy, life and art. Millennium Actress is a movie about taking on turbulent changes with a pure heart that manages to beat on for many decades and shake the world for a millennium.

8. Synecdoche, New York, dir. Charlie Kaufman

In a lot of ways, Synecdoche, New York reminds me of VACS’ Vancouver Wabi-Sabi participatory theatre project. As his personal life falls apart, aging theatre director Caden Cotard is determined to see through his ambitious magnum opus – a life-sized replica of New York City in a warehouse, where participants play as “themselves” and seemingly go about living their own lives. Similar to Millennium Actress, Synecdoche, New York has everything it takes to be a surreal tragedy, but moves its audience with unlikely bonds and a cathartic appreciation for life.

Have you read/seen any of the stories? Do you have more to add to the list? Feel free to share any favourites with us in the comments!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s