by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho, HarperCollins 2021
For many weeks, my daughter insisted that I read Eyes that Kiss in the Corners to her every night at bedtime. We read it with A Gift for Amma (reviewed here) as a pair. And in certain ways these books do have similarities, both feature a young girl with an emphasis on family. My daughter seems to identify with both the girls; she points to the girl in Eyes that Kiss in the Corners, she wants to be her. This book is less a story and more a meditation, a young girl’s consideration of her differences and her embrace of their beauty.
After a hiatus of a couple of weeks, we read this one again tonight. The children love the fantastical illustrations – the gorgeous swirling colours bringing legend to life. My daughter points to them, picking the creatures and characters out of the enchantment of Dung Ho’s pictures, a bird, a fish, a dragon, a phoenix, the Monkey King.
Tonight was a little different. She is starting to learn to put letters together into words and so this time, when I’d read the first page, ‘Big eyes, long lashes’, she wanted to read the next: Not me. And then I found that she can recite almost every word – Joanna Ho’s lyrical prose flowing from her three-year-old tongue. My heart gave a little bound as she announced, ‘My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution.’ She looks at the girl and she sees beauty, she sees a sister – she loves all the pages with Mei-Mei – a daughter, a grandaughter. Perhaps she sees too the eyes of her friends at day care – they wear masks all day except for eating and resting, so the eyes are all important, that’s how she knows her friends. And, just as the girl does, I feel that she’s seeing beauty everywhere.