Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Blue Stone - A Journey Through Life by Jimmy Liao, translated by Sarah Thompson

Today, I'm presenting Mighty Mom's first review at The Well-Read Child.

The Blue Stone: A Journey Through Life by Jimmy Liao, translated by Sarah Thompson

An enormous blue stone lies peacefully in the forest until the day it is discovered by people. The people split the stone in two, leaving one half undisturbed while taking the other to a sculptor's workshop to be carved. There, the artist turns the stone into a massive grey elephant. The people delight in sculptor's creation, but the stone is not happy. It mourns for its forest home and crumbles. The largest remaining piece is delivered to a new artist. This time it is shaped into bird for an old lady's garden. The lady is quite happy with her bird, but the stone is not. Again, it falls to pieces. And so the pattern continues: the stone, transformed repeatedly by humans, crumbles each time it remembers its true home. Only when it finally turns to dust can a breath of wind bring it back to where it belongs. There, in the forest, the stone finds peace.

When I first read The Blue Stone to myself, I found it incredibly sad. Author-Illustrator Jimmy Liao and translator, Sarah L. Thomson create in both word and image a sense of inconsolable longing for a place remembered. Later, I read the book a second time with my children, ages 5 and 7. It was clear they appreciated a more positive, uplifting layer to the story. They were excited to see the stone reinvented again and again. The question, "What's it going to be next?" propelled them to the book's conclusion despite it's heavy-hearted narrative.

Living where we do, in Switzerland, most English-speaking children live quite far from the their cultural home, much like the blue stone during the bulk of this story. On the one hand, The Blue Stone might provoke interesting discussion on homesickness; on the other, the suggestion that such feelings can only be resolved by returning to one's place of origin is an unfortunate conclusion. That said, I would be unlikely to read this story in a classroom setting, particularly here. It would be better shared on an individual basis, ideally to initiate discussion with a child going through a painful transition. In truth, I would prefer a book that offered a balanced outlook change. Unfortunately, The Blue Stone – A Journey Through Life isn't it.

What Other Bloggers are Saying:

Mayra's Secret Bookcase:
"The Blue Stone is a beautiful story book about hope and rebirth. The illustrations are evocative and mysterious, perfectly matching the eerie resonance of the prose. This is also a story about time and the effect it has on things. This unusual book will make a lovely gift for any child." (read more...)

"This is a story of the different possibilities of life, and finding home again." (read more...)

Pinot and Prose: "It really isn’t for the picture book crowd, though some kids may enjoy browsing the illustrations. It’s really ideal for older kids, and it’ll be a good graduation gift..." (read more...)

More info:
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316113832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113830
  • Source: Review copy from publisher

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