Reviewed by Antonella Townsend
I have long since been an enthusiastic reader within the category of Young Adult Fiction, but had never anticipated loving so very much a book produced for ages 4+. Such is the magic of Eyes that Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho.
Joanna Ho is passionate about equity in books and education; she is currently the vice principal of a high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dung Ho is based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; she is a New York Times bestselling illustrator of children’s books.
Eyes that Speak to the Stars is a large sized hardback, presented in glossy colour; it is a companion to the New York Times bestseller Eyes that Kiss in the Corners. Parents familiar with this title will welcome its sequel. Parents not familiar with Ho’s work will be delighted to discover an inspiring story of love and self-belief written for such a young demographic. The illustrations enhance the text perfectly adding to the significance of the theme.
The story is about a young Asian boy who is sad when he sees his friend’s drawing in which his eyes are made to look like slits, a bit different from his peers. His father inspires him: Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars. The comets and constellations show you their secrets, …
The boy sees his eyes are like his father’s, and Agong’s, his grandfather, and they always look up: Agong’s eyes that rise to the skies and speak to the stars gaze into the distance like they’re looking at the world through lenses of time. Readers understand what a wonderful loving relationship he has with his grandfather and his baby brother, Di-Di. He grows in confidence: My eyes shine like sunlit rays that break through dark and doubt. They lift their sights on paths of flight that soar above the clouds.
The above, of course, does not do justice to the wonderful forty pages of this book. It is a story that is applicable to all children, regardless of heritage, that speaks of believing in who you are in the world and the joy of loving those around you. Looking up and out to space is a powerful visual that inspires significance, while at the same time renders petty unkindness inconsequential.
The comets and constellations show me their secrets because I am the emperor of my own destiny. I read a brighter future in the stars and will fight to make it reality.
That’s a great message for everyone, regardless of age!
By Joanna Ho
Illustrated by Dung Ho
Harper Collins Publishers Australia