The Visible Sounds

The Visible Sounds
Yin Jianling and Yu Rong (translated by Filip Selucky)
UCLAN Publishing

This is the powerfully affecting picture book, based on the true story of Chinese dancer Lihua Tai. It tells of MiLi, who as a little girl of two, suffers an illness and loses her hearing as a result. Initially frustrated, anxious, and alone in her world of silence, MiLi uses tears to express how she feels. Doctors are unable to cure her but then one day MiLi realises that although she’s unable to hear sounds, she is able to perceive them in other ways: sound can be felt within, touched, and seen through understanding and interpreting vibrations and movements in the world.

The author expresses the child’s realisation through a plethora of sensory musical phrases: ‘Sounds are waves when fish pass through water, like the lightest of kisses.’ … ‘Sound is the bright sunshine flowing into one’s blood, beaming with rays.’ … ‘Language is a river, flowing and flooding into MiLi’s body.’ … ‘The beautiful music jiggles in her blood. It doesn’t have a sound, but it shines with colours and emotions …’

Perfectly complementing the beauty of the text are Yu Rong’s illustrations with their synthesis of striking graphic style, detail and blending of colours and greyness.

This is a book, that with themes of aiming high and being our very best selves,

while offering a message of hope to differently abled youngsters, surely speaks to us all. It concludes with a note on sign language and a page about Tai Lihua.

A must have for schools, and for family collections.

Shu Lin’s Grandpa

Shu Lin’s Grandpa
Matt Goodfellow and Yu Rong
Otter-Barry Books

Shu Lin has recently come from China and with very little English, is struggling to fit in at her new school.

At lunchtime the other children are fascinated as they watch her tuck in to her little boxes of food. On the way home, one of her classmates recalls when he too was a newcomer but it’s not until Shu Lin’s grandpa visits the class with his Chinese paintings that anything really changes.

No words are needed as the children look in awe at his scrolls with their amazing scenes.

Then as silently as he arrived, Shu Lin’s grandpa leaves the classroom. That afternoon, the class teacher gives the children the opportunity to try painting their own pictures in response to what they’ve seen.

Matt Goodfellow’s text is presented through the narration of one of Shu Lin’s classmates and this is highly effective in that the boy relates his own experience to that of the newcomer showing understanding throughout the book, while Yu Rong’s illustrations, including a gate-fold that opens to reveal a remarkable Chinese scene, are absolutely superb.

That art is a hugely effective way of helping to develop empathy with other cultures comes across with a quiet power in this story that celebrates the imagination while demonstrating the importance of reaching out to others.

An important book to include in primary school class collections.

Snowflake in My Pocket

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Snowflake in My Pocket
Rachel Bright and Yu Rong
Walker Books
This is one of those stories that leaves you with a wonderful warm glow inside. It centres on the loving relationship between two woodland characters, a very old Bear and a very young Squirrel. Nothing the two do together is new to bear but doing it with Squirrel makes every experience ‘brand new’ for Bear.

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One night Bear feels the first chills of winter and as the friends stand looking at the moon, he forecasts snow is on its way.

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Next morning an excited Squirrel rushes to his window and having cleared a peephole through the frost looks out on a magical white world …

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Bear meanwhile has a very nasty chill and needs to stay snuggled up in bed. Off goes Squirrel alone but without Bear to share it with him, even his fun-filled morning is less than perfect. The little fellow decides to take a snowflake home to give his friend and having caught ‘the perfectest one’ he puts it into his pocket and heads home. Now youngsters who have done the same will already be anticipating the outcome; and sure enough, when Squirrel puts his paw into his pocket, there’s no snowflake.
No matter, Bear tells him. “Snow comes and snow goes … but one thing lasts forever.” And Squirrel knows exactly what he means …

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How beautifully author and artist capture that joy of experiencing snow for the very first time. Share this one with early years children particularly after a snowfall and let them try taking snow indoors. Share it at home snuggled up with a young listener or two, and follow with a mug of hot chocolate.