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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Only Child, by guojing. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2015. $23.99 all ages

"The story in this book is fantasy, but it reflects the very real feelings of isolation and loneliness I experienced growing up in the 1980s under the one-child policy in China. When I was young, both of my parents had to work to support our family, so during the day, my grandmother would take care of me. But still, sometimes - if they had to rush to work or if Nai Nai was busy - "

It is loneliness that inspired the author to create this unforgettable and uplifting wordless picture book . Despite the best intentions of the entire family, there were problematic days. One particular day her father put her on the bus alone to travel to her grandmother's house. It is that experience that lead to this fantasy.

In each powerful image the author raises our awareness for the sense of isolation felt by a child left alone. She entertains herself with any number of things and finally sits to look through a scrapbook filled with family photos. In it she sees photos of her Nai Nai celebrating her last birthday. Those images are enough to spark purpose in her; she decides that she will leave a note, get dressed, and take the bus to her grandmother's house.

As she watches the passing sights from the bus window she falls asleep. She awakens to discover she has passed her stop. Off she runs into the woods ... alone again. She is frightened until she meets a majestic stag who carries her up to the clouds. Their adventure has begun. They meet a very special friend, play and explore this fantastic world throughout the day. When night falls, the stag returns the child to her home, where grateful family provide a warm and loving welcome.

Soft pencil drawings and the author's personal connection to the story told offer many moments of love and longing, and finally belonging. The warmth of the relationship between child and stag is evident as they meet, explore, play and share an afternoon adventure. The perfectly paced storytelling is stunning. It evokes emotions  that will capture the full attention of all who share it ... 8 or 80.

Absolutely beautiful, and not to be missed!

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