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The Children's Bookshelf: The Eyes & The Impossible - May 21, 2023

The Eyes and the Impossible written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris is a fascinating novel for readers 8-12 years of age. Much of the story is told by a free dog, namely a dog that does not have a leash around its neck, who has lived in the park for thousands of years and as the Eyes of the park watches everything. The Campers are no problem, but the Trouble Travelers are. They leave bottles, garbage, and mayhem everywhere.

Eyes is incredibly fast. “I run like a rocket. I run like a laser. You have never seen speed like mine”, says Eyes. “When I run I pull at the Earth and make it turn.”

The Keepers of the Equilibrium are three Bison to whom Eyes reports. One day, however, Eyes becomes interested in looking at images of golden trees and blue fingers being placed on rectangles around and in a building in the center of the park. He’s so fascinated that he does not realize he’s in danger and doesn’t know a Trouble Traveler is sneaking up behind him until he feels a hideous leash around his neck as he is being taken away in a car.

When huge birds with their massive wings open gather on the windshield hindering the driver’s ability to see, Eyes knows his friends have come to free him. Sonia the squirrel also bounces about inside the car scratching each Trouble Traveler’s face causing them all to jump out. This is a wild scene of rescue full of strategy and triumph.

The classical landscapes that provide the beautiful illustrations are done by mainly 18th Century artists and are completely identified at the back of the book. Shawn Harris skillfully places Eyes running through each landscape.

The Eyes and the Impossible written by Dave Eggers with great imagination about animals, people and how they live is a unique novel for readers 8-12 years of age. ( Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House Children’s Books) 2023.

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for The Eyes and the Impossible

Questions: Why are the roller-skaters Eyes favorite humans? Why does Eyes want to free the Bison? Why do the Bison eventually not want to be freed? Who is Eyes best friend? In what hollow does Eyes live? What is the role of the goats in this story?

Creative Movement: Find a safe space to move about, put your body in the shape of the following characters and move across the floor to bring these characters in this story alive: Move your arms and fly like Bertrand the seagull, walk slowly like the exhausted bison Freya when she tells Eyes the bison will not be going on the ship, run fast like Eyes when he is on his daily check of the park and move wildly like Sonia the squirrel as she bounces back and forth scratching the Trouble Travelers.

Reread Chapter 14 ----This chapter describes how Eyes saved a little toddler when she fell into the water from an unsafe bridge. Then give this Chapter a name. Think about it----let your creative juices flow.

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.