Based on the author’s childhood growing up in China, this is the haunting story of a child left alone at home who decides to take the bus to her grandmother’s house. But when she gets off the bus, she discovers that she is alone in a woods. She sees a stag in the woods and follows him until they reach a body of water. When the little girl slips into the deep water, the stag offers one of his antlers to rescue her and the two travel on together. Out further in the water, there is a light in the clouds and the clouds form stairs for them to climb. They enter a cloud world, filled with other creatures. Although the little girl is having fun, she does miss her family who are frantically searching for her back on earth. But how is she going to ever get back to them from high above in the clouds?
The author’s note that begins this book is crucial to understanding the story. A generation of single children in China led to them living profoundly lonely lives, sometimes left alone at home for the day. That loneliness seeps through every page here, even the joyous ones ache with it. This mash up of a wordless picture book and a graphic novel is exceedingly successful, offering a glimpse into a magical world of animals and clouds that show this small child the love and attention she is seeking at home. This story is hauntingly told with a magnificent heart that shines on each page.
The artwork here is soft and subtle, exuding a warmth even in the falling snow. The pencil drawings are detailed and lush. Guojing plays with light and dark, hope and loneliness throughout the book. The child is central in the book, shining on the page alongside her animal companions. The world of clouds is beautifully textural and playful, hugging the child and supporting her. This art is exceptional and communicates far more than words could.
A ravishingly gorgeous book, this graphic novel will be adored by a wide range of ages. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.