A girl visits her Lao Lao in China, arriving on a pink-tinted plane. Her beloved grandma eagerly awaits, ready to spoil her with bubble baths, jiaozi and stories. Discovering a pink-hued feather in a cup, leads to a treasured memory. A big, blue sky and bright, green fields emerge. Centered in the backdrop is a young girl biking with her dog. We are in a different timeline; it’s Lao Lao’s childhood in vivid colors and she is exploring the outdoors. Skipping to a scene, we see she finds an egg and raises a fine-feathered friend. She becomes a type of flamingo whisperer. They have unbelievable, whimsical fun together. Flash forward to muted pink and gray colors subdued activities, strolling on the beach, snorkeling and discovering a turtle, are framed in panels. Still, hints of the past hide in imagery from Lao Lao’s slippers, a curtain and mailbox. When summer ends, the girl departs, changed by her new spiritual guide, a precious feather. She knows that like the flamingo, her grandma’s love will span the long distance between their continents.
Guojing’s cleverly shows the transformation of youth from, “Part One, A Trip to Visit Lao Lao. All on My Own” to “Part Two, My Turn to Fly Home.” The flamingo symbolizes joy against adversity. Imagination is a coping mechanism. Like Guojing’s first book, “The Only Child,” she depicts a “happy childhood” being tied to her relationship with her grandma. Why she chooses to use Lao Lao (maternal grandma in Northern China) instead of nainai or waipo is debatable, however, it cannot be denied that the parents are partially drawn, absent or hardly there. Removing the jacket cover reveals a picturesque moment of lift (p.80-81). Soaring to the same heights of a commercial airplane, a flamingo can disappear from sight. Her childhood is grandma’s gift will always protect her.
Guojing is a respected picture book author, painter and illustrator from the Shanxi province of China. Her wordless picture books are aesthetically pleasing and artistically incomparable to others. Stormy and The Child have received recognition, awards and honors such as the ALA- ALSC Notable Children’s Book Award, an Eisner nominee as well as The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.
Ages: 5-8. Recommended for inquisitive kids and grandparents interested in flamingos, drawing