How Old Am I?: 1–100 Faces From Around The World

Image of How Old Am I?: 1–100 Faces From Around The World
Release Date: 
May 12, 2021
Phaidon Press
Reviewed by: 

“The international flavor of this book actually makes the world feel like a wonderful place to be. These are real people, and they are shown here as happy to be alive.”

How Old Am I? is a concept book for young elementary school kids about the visual representation of aging. From one year old to 100 years old, and for each year in between, age takes on a concrete meaning in the form of a human face.

Graphically this book is simple, consistent, and effective, with bright bold page colors, thick white outlines, and a vibrant polka-dot background behind each black and white photo. Eye-catching is the word that comes to mind. This is a very attractive, alluring, well designed, and satisfying product from start to finish.

The people in the book tell us “hello” in their native language. They tell us their name and their age, where they were born and where they live now. Then they share something about themselves: what makes them happy; a special memory; what they wish for the world.

Four-year-old Sahel Havran lives in Madagascar. He says “salama,” which means hello. He makes a funny face for the camera and sticks out his tongue at us. He wants a toy car for his next birthday. He is proud to go to the bathroom by himself. He loves eating cakes and wants to be a train driver or a doctor when he turns 26.

Asmaa says, “marhaba.” She is 25 years old and lives in the USA but was born in Syria. She took a dance class when she was eight and it made her feel like Superwoman. Her favorite age was 10 because she got to each a lot of ice cream. Now she is an architectural designer creating buildings for people to live in. Her face is lovely, and she has a sweet, intelligent look. She comes across as fun loving and happy.

Almost all of the faces come across as kind, caring, happy individuals. Each page has a black silhouette map of the globe with a pin stuck in the person’s hometown and/or birthplace. Older kids will be able to realize that people are people the world over. The international flavor of this book actually makes the world feel like a wonderful place to be. These are real people, and they are shown here as happy to be alive. This alone is worth the sticker price!

Not only is it possible for people around the world to be happy, it is also quite clear that older people are happy, too. With few exceptions, people over 75 are all smiling, and the joy is palpable.

The high happy factor brings another consistency to this project. Through that emotional consistency there is no judgement in the age. It’s just a number. Over the years, as faces age, they change. That is just what happens. This book connects the changes to the number.

Granted, some people in their 70s look younger than some people in their 60s and vice versa. This makes for interesting conversation: What is it that makes a face look older? Putting an age with a face is a thought provoking concept for young people, even for babies, who love to study faces. Babies should not be excluded from those readers who might enjoy this book. The combination of the graphics, colors, and faces would probably intrigue them. It’s too bad there isn’t a newborn face included but the starting point was one year old. Taking that to the opposite extreme, a photo of the oldest person in the world would have been welcomed. 

To round out the project, the back of the book has a chart of the 1–100 faces with the page color that accompanied them in their individual full-page spread. It is stunning to see the rainbow of colors, the bold numbers, and the faces all together in one image. There is also a grand finale image of the black silhouette map of the world with a complete collection of all the pins that match the color/age of everyone included. Again, good clean graphics mark a completion to the book the way a good conclusion would in a novel.

Finally, there is a plug for a project by a French artist (37-year-old JR) who, when he was 16, started taking pictures of his friends with a camera he found in a subway station. He put the photos up on walls all around the city, the photos got larger and larger, and he traveled farther and farther to take pictures of people. At 28, he won a TED prize for his art and started the Inside Out Project from which the photos in this book were selected. So far, more than 400,000 people from 142 countries have participated in this photography project and a hand full of examples are included on the last page.

JR’s project with Julie Pugeat’s content creation pairs well together and makes a unique selection for young readers. How Old Am I? is a very cool book that will not disappoint.