Eyes that Speak to the Stars

Eyes that Speak to the Stars
Joanna Ho and Dung Ho

With similar themes to Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is this sequel with a boy narrator and a focus on the male members of his family.

The boy comes out of school upset and shows his father a picture drawn by one of his classmates entitled ‘My Friends’. Seemingly no offence was intended but Kurt’s portrayal of the boy with slits for eyes has hurt his feelings, especially as the others in the picture all have wide open eyes.

Back at home, father and son stand in front of a mirror and the boy is comforted by these positive words, “Your eyes rise to the skies and spread to the stars. The comets and constellations show you their secrets, and your eyes can foresee the future. Just like mine.” The two head for the garden, father carrying his son on his shoulders shouts, “We’re ready for takeoff” and the boy comments ‘his eyes shine like runway lights.’ Meeting grandfather, the boy notices that he too has similar eyes though his look at the world ‘through the lenses of time’ and he ‘holds the wisdom of generations’. Those eyes are visionary, just like those of Di-Di, the boy’s younger sibling too. 

Thus little by little, the narrator, discovers the powers of his eyes, – eyes that ‘shine like sunlit rays that break through dark and doubt. … My eyes gaze into space and glimpse trails of light inviting me into impossibilities. I am the emperor of my own destiny.’ 

That’s inner strength for you.

What power there is in Joanna Ho’s poetic words too, with their emphasis on looking up. This is reflected in Dung Ho’s digital illustrations that not only portray the strength of the family bond but also elements of Chinese mythology.

A splendid celebration of family and of diversity.

The Smart Cookie

The Smart Cookie
Jory John and Pete Oswald
Harper 360

The narrator of this picture book is one of the residents of the bakery on the corner of Sweet Street; she now calls herself Smart and is sufficiently self-assured to share with readers her transformative journey from a cookie completely lacking in confidence to the present day.

As a pupil of Ms Biscotti, teacher at the school in a gingerbread house, said cookie didn’t think fast enough to put up her hand to answer any questions and finished last in most tests. Sometimes a lesson was so much of a challenge, our narrator felt completely at sea, totally beset by worries and would lie awake all night in the cookie jar.

Then one day Ms Biscotti announced a homework assignment asking everyone to ‘create something completely original’ and bring it to class next day.

Back home our cookie starts work right away but her initial attempts result in disasters of one kind or another, and then suddenly an idea comes – a poem! Having named the creation “My Crumby Days”, the words just keep coming to our poet in the making, so much so that it’s excitement, not worry that keeps her awake this time.

Next morning at school cookie shares the poem. Fellow pupils relate to the words, Ms Biscotti is delighted by its originality

and as for our narrator, she realises that everyone is smart in their own ways, it just takes time to discover what those ways are; our differences are something to be embraced and celebrated.

With puns aplenty and its important message, Jory John’s text together with Pete Oswald’s playful scenes of cookie’s school and home, offer a tasty confidence booster for youngsters and a great starting point for discussion in the primary classroom.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Joanna Ho and Dung Ho
Harper Collins

There’s a pleasing circularity about Joanna Ho’s lyrical tale of self awareness, family love and tradition that is narrated by an un-named schoolgirl.

At the start, having described the eyes of some of her schoolmates – ‘ like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns’ she says, ‘I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea. / My eyes are just like Mama’s.’
She then goes on to tell us that the other women in her family have similar eyes. Her Amah has eyes filled with stories; her younger sister Mei-Mei uses her eyes to watch at the window for the return of big sister from school when they can be together again.

We then share in the delights her own eyes discover. With Amah beside her she sees ‘Guanyin with the Money King / sitting on a lotus, serene, // baubles of lychee on trees, / and mountains that reach for the sea.’ … ‘I see kingdoms in  the clouds. ‘

Throughout, the vibrant digital illustrations of Dung Ho with their swirling patterns and beautiful flora, are strongly evocative of Chinese culture and stories; and there are some unmentioned additions such as the jade bangle worn by Amah.

(my mother had a similar one she bought in Hong Kong) and the upside-down Fu (happiness arriving) symbol on the front door.

A lovely celebration of being who and what you are, with an uplifting final statement ‘My eyes … are a revolution … They are me. And they are beautiful.’

Foundation stage classes often explore ‘myself’ and ‘family’ as part of the curriculum: this is a book to share as part of either topic.