PRESS & REVIEWS
Report from New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and CNN, etc
The New York Times Book Review, Nov. 2015
“…dreamy…The lonely child is led to bravery through her imagination, a path sometimes obstructed in our own culture by parental perimeters or stifling ideas of safety. This book asks what happens when a child is left alone to encounter the world with all its dangers, all its wonders. “- Samantha Hunt
The Wall Street Journal, Best Top Ten Children’s Books of 2015, Dec 2015
“Beauty seems in short supply for the Chinese girl who loses her way in “The Only Child.” With stunning monochrome drawings that eventually soar into the clouds, the illustrator Guojing evokes her own childhood in a wordless story that moves from ugly industrial surroundings to the consolations of imagination and parental love. Born under China’s one-child policy, Guojing writes in an author’s note, she belongs to “a very lonely generation.”
The Children’s Book Review, Growing Readers, Dec. 2015
In this magnificently illustrated—and wordless—masterpiece, debut artist Guojing brilliantly captures the rich and deeply-felt emotional life of a child, filled with loneliness and longing as well as love and joy.
The Washington Post, Kathie Meizner, Jan 2016
The child in Guojing’s impressive, wordless picture book The Only Child (Ages 4-10) could be any small girl, round-cheeked and barely out of toddlerhood, clinging briefly to her mother in the morning — and later at home feeling alone during her parents’ work day. She plays dolls and dress-up and watches television briefly before a photo in an album catches her thoughts. Donning a sweater and a pair of snow coveralls, she ventures into the chilly streets and boards a city bus, where she falls asleep. When the girl wakes, the bus is empty and stranded in a forest. An antlered deer appears and rescues the sobbing child, ascending a misty staircase to a bright cloudscape. Guojing’s single palette in graphite black and gray suggests an old photograph come to life, while the story seems to come from a dream country reminiscent of Raymond Briggs’s beloved book “The Snowman.” The visual narrative features sequences of frames interspersed with dramatic full scenes, as when the deer brings the little girl back to her anxious parents. Although Guojing attributes some of the book’s emotional territory to her own experience as an only child under China’s one-child policy, many children will recognize themselves and their own moments of loneliness and connection.
USA TODAY, Nov. 29th 2015
The Only Child is a compelling and melancholy debut from an important new talent. Detailed black-and-white drawings form a wordless narrative of a child, left alone by her parents, who goes off to find her grandmother. At first, she travels through a snowy Chinese city, industrial and desolate, until she finds herself stranded in the woods. Then the journey turns mythic, and the art turns joyful. The child meets magical allies and adversaries, such as a stag and a whale, before finally making her way back to her parents. In her author’s note, Guojing explains that The Only Child came out of her experiences growing up lonely under China’s (newly reversed) one-child policy. An expansive and ageless book, full of wonder, sadness, and wild bursts of imagination. – Eliot Schrefer
ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book of the Year, 2016
An only child trying to find her way to grandma’s house becomes lost in an unknown world, but imaginative companions help her find her way back. A stunning wordless graphic novel that explores isolation and resourcefulness.
Toronto Star, Deirdre Baker, Jan 2016
In this wordless story, artist Guojing draws on memories of being a lonely, only child growing up under China’s one-child policy. In softly shaded pencil illustrations, we see a child left alone when her parents go to work. When she tries to take the bus to her grandmother’s, she gets off at the wrong stop — in a shadowy wood. Rescued by a gentle buck, she’s transported on a dreamlike journey over clouds and even into the belly of a whale before she’s reunited with her parents. Guojing’s shadowy grain and soft curves create a kindly, almost mythical aura, a nod to imagination’s refreshing and comforting powers. This little girl’s loneliness is clear, but so too is her humour, resourcefulness, and capacity for affection.
Shelf Awareness, Karin Snelson, children’s & YA editor, Dec 2015
In this weighty, wordless book of exquisite black-and-white pencil drawings by Chinese illustrator Guojing, a cherubic young girl from the city is left alone in the apartment when her parents go off to work.
After staring at the closed door for a while, she busies herself playing dress-up, reading and gazing out at the snowy city. Enough. She dons a snow suit, grabs an umbrella and heads outside. The passage of time marches along in comic-strip panels, pausing here and there in glorious full-bleed spreads. The little girl amuses herself by people-watching and making funny tracks in the snow, and eventually boards bus #25. The world zooms by, she falls asleep, and when she wakes up, the bus is empty. She jumps off somewhere in the forest. (At just this moment, her mother back home finds the note she left, “Gone to visit grandma.” Her parents rush to find her.)
Meanwhile, the girl, now frightened, spots a large-antlered stag, which leads her safely into a lake, then up a staircase of clouds, where she has a giddy time bouncing and playing with her adorable new otter-like cloud companions… until they leave her, too.
In an introductory note, Guojing writes, “The story in this book is fantasy, but it reflects the very real feelings of isolation and loneliness I experienced growing up in the 1980s under the one-child policy in China.” The loneliness of the little girl is indeed apparent, but her ebullient nature is, too–and this emotional power, combined with the wonder of a cloud adventure and fuzzy animal friends, is sure to mesmerize young readers.
Boing Boing, Lora Poser-Brown, Jan 2016
The Only Child portrays a lonely tot who becomes lost in a winter landscape. While her parents scour the city and surrounding countryside, the child scampers in snow, clouds, and seas with a mystical buck. This only child left the safety of home to visit Grandma; thankfully, the deer protects the child while guiding their journey. The discoveries made by the pair show how important companions are in life.
The book is illustrated in soft charcoal and chalk pastels, some images filling small boxes, others covering a full page. By using charcoal and pastel, images feel gentle and dreamlike, especially in the fantasy scenes. In contrast, artist Guojing’s urban settings have sharper lines and a gritty texture. In each image, the reader feels the child’s loneliness through the absence of color, the blank snow surrounding the child’s adventure, and the utterly silent text. I felt truly lonely reading the book, scanning the tot’s face and accompanying landscape. I saw that the new companions – the buck, a polar bear cub, and a blue whale – must be temporary, for they do not exist in the ordinary world of adults. I heard the longings for friends and family, as each page tugged me toward the next in hopes of being embraced by Grandma and Mom and Dad.
The Only Child whispers of loneliness, dreams, friendship, family, and adventure. The book reverberates with the timeless yearnings we all have, drawing the reader into the story with its familiar emotions and contrasting world of fantasy. Both young and old alike will enjoy the tale, especially when shared with a much-loved companion.
Discover: In Guojing’s beautiful, wordless storybook, a little Chinese girl left home alone wanders off into the snow and has magical cloud adventures with a benevolent stag.
Winter ’15-’16 Kids Indie Next List, Todd Wellman (M), Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI, Dec. 2015
Both a study in magical realism and a pure celebration of imagination, Guojing’s wordless book captivates through its pacing and artistic prowess. In the tradition of Mary Pope Osborne’s Moonhorse, a child finds both meaning and celebration in the natural world, and Guojing’s art brilliantly blends the fears of being lost with the resiliency found in pressing forward.
The Booklist Reader by Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan, Dec. 4th, 2015
We were fortunate to be sent an F&G of The Only Child (2015) by Guojing last summer and, even in that unhandy form, the book took my breath away. The story may be wordless, told through luminous, sepia-toned sketches, but the tale is richly layered and deeply emotional. Guojing is a master, skillfully utilizing the panel design on each wondrous page to enhance the reader’s connection to the protagonist’s experience.
The story is a simple one. A toddler plays alone after her parents leave for work. Bored and lonely, she decides to visit her grandmother. Crossing the city on a bus, the child falls asleep, misses her stop, and leaves the bus on the snowy edge of a forest. Then a reindeer arrives to comfort the girl and lead her up into the clouds for an extraordinary adventure before bringing her safely home again to her parents.
In the author’s note that begins the book, Guojing shares the feeling of isolation she felt growing up in China with its one-child policy. It is this deeply felt core of loneliness that underlies the entire story, even in the fantasy elements where Guojing delightfully celebrates imagination in scenes of play and innocent silliness with new friends. There is a gentle softness to all these beautiful illustrations but, as a reader, I was always aware of this child’s sadness.
Waking Brain Cells Blog, review by Tasha Saecker, Dec 2015
The author’s note that begins this book is crucial to understanding the story. A generation of single children in China led to them living profoundly lonely lives, sometimes left alone at home for the day. That loneliness seeps through every page here, even the joyous ones ache with it. This mash up of a wordless picture book and a graphic novel is exceedingly successful, offering a glimpse into a magical world of animals and clouds that show this small child the love and attention she is seeking at home. This story is hauntingly told with a magnificent heart that shines on each page… A ravishingly gorgeous book, this graphic novel will be adored by a wide range of ages.
BookPage review by Julie Danielson, Dec. 1st 2015
Guojing does many things well here, but best of all is the book’s expert pacing. She takes her time to establish the child’s loneliness and longing at the book’s opening, as well as the intimate bond between the loving stag and the child throughout the rest of the story. Soft, velvety pencil illustrations, adjusted in Photoshop, bring readers tender, close-up moments of the duo, and panels pick up the pace on many spreads, communicating loads of action and emotion. One striking and very dramatic spread from the inside of the whale is pitch black.
In this day and age of American helicopter parenting, it’s a story that stands out, and children may very well marvel at the child’s freedom. But it’s the touching return to parents who care that make the story a universal tale of home and belonging.
#1 on the Winter 2015-2016 Kids’ Indie Next List
“Both a study in magical realism and a pure celebration of imagination, Guojing’s wordless book captivates through its pacing and artistic prowess. In the tradition of Mary Pope Osborne’s Moonhorse, a child finds both meaning and celebration in the natural world, and Guojing’s art brilliantly blends the fears of being lost with the resiliency found in pressing forward.”
—Todd Wellman, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI
Booklist, Nov. 2015
Guojing grew up under China’s one-child policy among “a very lonely generation of children,” and that sense of loneliness beautifully suffuses her spare, wordless debut. A chubby-cheeked, slightly cartoonish little girl entertains herself at home alone after her parents leave for work, but soon toys and TV can’t keep her from feeling lonesome, so she intrepidly decides to take the bus to her grandma’s house. Guojing’s sepia-toned panels illustrate the stark beauty of the snowy streets the girl walks down: they’re packed with people, while smokestacks loom in the background behind electrical lines stretched overhead. The city scenes are a sharp contrast to the dim, quiet wood where the little girl ends up—she’s fallen asleep on the bus and misses her stop. Alone again and far from her grandma’s, she sits down and weeps, but emerging from between the trees is a majestic reindeer, who escorts her on a dreamy adventure in the clouds before bringing her back home to her worried family. Each arresting, softly penciled panel is surprisingly luminous in spite of its monochromatic palette, and in those gentle scenes, Guojing evokes a wide range of feeling, especially the lonesomeness of the little girl, who never quite seems at ease alone. Reminiscent of Raymond Briggs’ classic, The Snowman (1978), this is quiet, moving, playful, and bittersweet all at once. – Sarah Hunter
September 28th, 2015 issue of Publishers Weekly
In an author’s note, newcomer Guojing explains that this wordless graphic novel grew out of memories of “isolation and loneliness,” growing up under China’s one-child policy. The Only Child of her story is an adorable dumpling in overalls who discovers herself alone on a bus after falling asleep. She sets off to find her grandmother’s house and is approached in a wintry forest by a stag, who flies with her into a realm beyond the clouds. There they discover an irresistible creature—part baby seal, part polar bear cub—and the three share a marvelous adventure until the animal’s parent comes to fetch it and the child is left alone again. She is never deserted by the loyal stag, though, who returns her safely to her own world. The low-key, all-gray charcoal palette carries whiffs of winter chill and poverty, but the physical sensations Guojing suggests visually—the fluffy softness of the clouds, the warmth of the stag’s closeness—provide the comfort of a soft quilt. Fine draftsmanship, deft pacing, and striking imaginative power distinguish this debut. Ages 5–9.
Kirkus Review, September 15 2015
Left alone when her mother leaves for work, a child amuses herself with television, dolls, and a toy deer before boarding a bus for her grandmother’s house. The ensuing experience, in which she falls asleep, misses her stop, and runs scared into the woods, is pulled directly from the author’s childhood in China. In this wordless, 105-page graphic novel, her constantly-in-motion protagonist is rescued by a mysterious stag that leads her up a ladder of clouds into a puffy paradise. The animal is a perfect playmate. Humorous close-ups reveal a hands-on exploration of the animal’s muzzle, toothy smiles, and affectionate nuzzling before the afternoon’s excitement. Guojing’s telling is skillfully paced. Early on, a sequence of 12, nearly square panels on a page conveys the child’s sense of confinement, loneliness, and boredom. Varying in size and shape, digitally manipulated graphite compositions create a soft, quiet atmosphere within which a gamut of effects are achieved: brilliant, snowy light, the etched faces of shivering street vendors, nuanced cloudscapes, and the pure black of a whale’s interior after the duo and a new friend are swallowed, Jonah-style. Majestic settings, tender interactions, and pure silliness lead readers to pore closely over these images, pulled along by shifting perspectives, ethereal beauty, and delight in the joy born of friendship. Rare is the book containing great emotional depth that truly resonates across a span of ages: this is one such.
School Library Journal, August 2015
A tender picture book with graphic novel elements about a young girl’s escape from loneliness through her imagination. Left home alone one day, a cherubic toddler-size child quickly bores and decides to visit her grandmother. Dressing for the snowy day, she boards a city bus with good intentions. However, she eventually grows drowsy, falls asleep, and doesn’t wake up until the bus is at its last stop. This is where the story gets magical. The last stop is at the edge of a strange wooded area filled with magical creatures. Much like Lewis Caroll’s Alice, she wanders through the woods in hopes of eventually finding her way back home. Although this is a wordless picture book, there is no lack of story. Illustrated with pencil in softly shaded tones of gray and white, the girl’s subtle expressions are captured simply but acutely. The style is cartoony, however, the black and white palette gives it a sophisticated tone. With the exception of several dramatic spreads, most pages are organized into graphic novel–style panels. The apparent age of the protagonist may deter some older readers. Luckily, the heart-warming and enchanting story, paired with such beautiful artwork is reason enough to purchase this title. VERDICT Part picture book, part graphic novel, this book is a solid addition that will spark discussion and inspire budding artists.–Jaclyn Anderson, Madison County Library System, MS