Review: The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing (InfoSoup)

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.

Review: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

herman and rosie

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

Herman is a crocodile who lives in New York and finds it very lonely.  He loves playing his oboe in his apartment.  His job selling things on the telephone, makes his life less lonely because he can talk to people, but doesn’t make him very good at his job.  Rosie lives in the building next door to Herman and she loves to sing.  She has a job washing dishes but loves most of all her singing lessons and performing in a little jazz club on Thursday nights.  The two are lonely but fairly happy because both of them hear great music floating into their windows from time to time.  Then one day Herman loses his job and Rosie discovers that the jazz club is closing.  The two of them head home and don’t make any music for a long time.  Until they wake up one morning and things have changed.  They are craving their favorite food and want to make music. 

Gordon has written a picture book ode to big city living, particularly New York.  He incorporates the potential loneliness of urban life but also praises the bustling, the music, the lifestyle.  The characters are quirky and believable.  They are the sort of characters who make perfect sense, whose actions are credible, reactions ring true, and they make the entire book work. 

Gordon writes and illustrates with a playful tone.  His illustrations are done in mixed media, including photographs, paint, and pencil.  The different media are worked together so thoroughly that at times you never notice the photos mixed in.  They are so cleverly done that it all forms one unified piece until something catches your eye.

Two musical souls in one big lonely city where they live next door to one another.  It’s a combination just as exquisite as New York itself.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.

Review: Kate & Pippin by Martin Springett

kate and pippin

Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story by Martin Springett, illustrated by Isobel Springett

When Pippin, a fawn, is abandoned by her mother, photographer Isobel Springett found her crying for help.  She took Pippin home and placed her by Kate their old Great Dane.  The two immediately bonded:  Pippin thought she had found a new mother and Kate started to mother her even though she had never raised any puppies of her own.  Pippin learned to drink from a bottle and when she got bigger started to adventure outside.  One evening, Pippin disappeared into the forest and didn’t return for bedtime.  Kate was very concerned, but the next morning Pippin came back just in time for breakfast.  Pippin returned to the woods every night after that, returning to the farm almost every morning to eat and play.  As she grew into an adult deer, she still continued to return to visit Kate and play.  She even still comes into the house once in awhile for a visit. 

This is one of the most lovely picture books about a relationship with a wild animal that I have seen.  I especially appreciate that Pippin was allowed to continue to be a wild deer, returning to the forest and being allowed to create a relationship on her own terms.  It’s definitely refreshing to see.  Here the human and dog were able to rescue, aid but also step back and not absorb this little creature.  The relationship that emerges is breathtakingly touching, seeped in fragility yet incredibly strong.

A large part of the success here are the photographs of this tiny deer bonding with the enormous dog.  By the end of the book, the animals are the same size.  It is clear that both of them adore one another on a deep level, and one that is delightfully separate from the humans. 

This nonfiction picture book reads like fiction, making it a great pick for a touch of nonfiction in a story time.  It’s a story that children will relate to easily and naturally.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.