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In praise of age-gap friendship: Up The Mountain

Up the mountain, by award-winning Canadian author/illustrator Marianne Dubuc, has been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2019. And for some good reasons:)
If you loved The Lion and the Bird you might love Up the mountain even more as this explores similar themes at a deeper level, with the same delicate illustrations and just a few words more, always picked carefully.

Mrs Badger is very old. She's seen plenty of things in her time.
Every Sunday she walks to the top of the Sugar Loaf. On her way she picks mushrooms, helps friends and sometimes finds company.
One day she meets Leo, a willing little cat who is keen on finding out what's up the mountain and Mrs Badger kindly guides him teaching him all her secrets along the way.
As the time passes the balance between adulthood and childhood inevitably changes, and Leo finds himself helping Mrs Badger more and more often, until one day he climbs on the mountain alone.
Thanks to his experience Leo will be able to make his own choices and to venture down new paths, to help old friends and some new ones as well,  finally finding a companion to share the mountain's secrets with.
Marianne Dubuc's latest picture book is a praise of age-gap friendship,  a tale about kindness, caring, resilience, and about the importance of taking the time for knowledge transmission. 
This makes so much sense in a Montessori perspective as Montessori works with multi-age classrooms to mirror our real multi-age society: here people are not separated by grade levels and learn from each other, helping each other.  The young ones gain knowledge and the ability to choose for themselves, and the older ones gain too: they gain mental clarity and strength, they experience leadership and they learn how to responsibly handle a leadership position.

"Our schools have shown how children of different ages help one another. The younger ones watch what the older ones are doing and ask all kinds of questions, and the older ones explain. This is really useful teaching, for the way that a five year old interprets and explains things is so much nearer than ours to the mind of a child of three that the little ones learns easily, whereas we would scarcely be able to get through to him. There is harmony and communication between them that is not possible between an adult and such a young child. There is a natural mental osmosis between them. A child of three is also quite capable of taking an interest in the work of a five year old, because in fact the difference in their abilities is not that great. 

People are concerned about whether a child of five who is always helping other children will make sufficient progress himself. But, firstly, he doesn't spend his whole time teaching, but has his own freedom and knows how to use it. Secondly, teaching really allows him to consolidate and strengthen his own knowledge, which he must analyse and use anew each time, so that he comes to see everything with greater clarity. The older child also gains from this exchange."

Maria Montessori

Up the mountain looks like a simple book, yet is so rich in detail that children like to explore (compared to The Lion and the bird in this sense) and it conveys a more intricate message that will unfold at every reading.
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Up the mountain [26th July 2018]
English-language edition published by Book Island

Il Sentiero [27th September 2018]
Italian edition by Orecchio Acerbo

Words & Art by Marianne Dubuc
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Friendship, Relationship with the elderly, Kindness, Growing up



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