Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Seeing Stick (Picture Book)
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Daniela Terrazzini
Publisher: Running Press Kids (Reprint edition September 22, 2009
Ages: 4 to 8
Over the years, I have read literally 100’s of picture books. Some are average, some are outstanding, and some are simply exceptional. If I could find a category beyond exceptional, then Jane Yolen’s re-release of her 1977 picture book The Seeing Stick now illustrated by Daniela Terrazzini would be the leader of the pack.
Yolen tells the story of Hwei Min, the only daughter of the Emperor of China. Hwei Min has been blind since birth causing her father to be quite sad. The Emperor decides to offer a reward to anyone who can find a cure for the little girl. The word goes out and a wise old man hears of the request and begins his journey to the palace. At the outer court, the elderly man explains to the guards how with his special stick he can help Hwei Min see. He carves the faces of the guards and other images into the stick. The guards are amazed and they bring him into the inner court where he continues to mesmerize those around him.
Finally, the old man is brought before the Emperor and Hwei Min where he shares his stick with her. As the girl runs her hands over the images on the stick she begins to “see” with her fingers. With delight, she seeks to match the carved images with the faces of the guards and those around her. The Emperor is true to his word and offers great riches to the wise man who graciously gives away his wealth to those needier than he.
Though the story is entertaining and very satisfying in its own right, the illustrations are really what take the book from good to absolutely amazing. The beginning paintings are mutely colored in shades of greys and blues and evolve as the story grows. There are subtle embossing of on the stick and various parts of the page which represent the tactile way of seeing. Additionally, the colors grow and become more complex and brilliant over the course of the book.
During a picture book search at a local bookstore, I came across this book. I sat down with my niece and read the story to her and we oooohed and ahhhed over the illustrations. After purchasing the book, I did impromptu storytimes in several classrooms at my school. It is a wonderful book to use as a read aloud as well as a lovely book to give as a gift. The Seeing Stick by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Daniela Terrazzini should be a part of every teacher’s personal collection. I look forward to seeing further work from illustrator Daniela Terrazzini.