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Arts and Culture

The Children's Bookshelf: Eyes That Kiss in the Corners 6-14

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This is the Children’s Bookshelf and I’m Sue Ann Martin

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho is a poetic telling of one little girl’s acceptance and pride as she comes to appreciate the beauty of the shape of her eyes. This attractive picture book is a combination of both the little girl’s eventual joy at the shape of her eyes, revealed in the poetry, and the celebration of tales from Asian mythic traditions, brought forward in the illustrations.

The story is told in first person by the little girl as she interacts with her mom, then her grandmother and finally with her little sister. She notices that her mother’s eyes are just like her eyes in that they “kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Then she notices that her Amah’s eyes have this very same shape as does her little sister’s eyes.

All this noticing requires a lot of courage, understanding and finally celebration. The lush illustrations show the little girl surrounded by blossoms, lotus flowers and fruit bearing trees. Then, the Goddess Guanyin with a water vase in one hand and a willow branch in the other appears. The pictures of the flying Peacock facing down two fierce Foo Dogs who are protecting the kingdom in the mountains are full of  visual magic. These swirling illustrations are, as the author says, “carrying tales of the past and hope for the future.”

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners written beautifully by Joanna Ho and illustrated with colorful energy by Dung Ho is a picture book about   difference and acceptance for children 4-7 years of age (Harper Collins, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and activity questions, ideal for home use, can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.   

Activity Questions for Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

There are many symbols from the Asian storytelling tradition that can be seen in the wonderful illustrations. Find the following: an Asian warrior riding a horse, two yellow Foo Dogs standing guard on a dresser, a flower vase with a drawing of a peacock on it, two attacking Foo Dogs guarding a kingdom, a protector peacock flying into battle, a goddess sitting on a lotus flower, a pink Kamona and the Monkey King.

In this book it seems that the girl’s Amah is the keeper of the stories. Who in your family is the keeper of the stories? With the help of a family member begin to collect some of these stories by copying them into a notebook. Be sure to give each story a title. Also name the teller for future development. Try to include one of your stories, too.

Draw a picture of a beautiful peacock. In this story the peacock tries to protect the little girl. Be sure to show the peacock, with wings spread, displaying its many gorgeous eyes. Have Fun!

Young children may enjoy being the Foo Dogs as they swirl in with their angry mouths open to stop anyone from getting into the castle. Move about, make a face and growl to scare off any intruders. Be sure to look at the picture of the green Foo Dogs in this book for encouragement.