Eyes that Speak to the Stars written by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho is a stunning companion book to Eyes that Kiss in the Corners. This is a powerful picture book and moving lyrical story about acknowledging and appreciating differences and family history as well as embracing what makes you unique. It is in the differences that there is beauty, infinite possibilities and power. This is a beautiful, uplifting and heart-warming celebration of identity, family, heritage, Chinese culture, shared history, acceptance and ultimately self-love.
In this story a young boy leaves school feeling despondent as his mind is preoccupied and his heart is deflated as he ponders a drawing he saw in class. Another child drew the boy with two lines for his eyes. The boy sees his appearance through the eyes of the student that drew this. For the young boy a sense of sadness and confusion wash over him as he doesn’t see himself in this way and certainly doesn’t see himself as different. He cannot relate to this drawing. Upon returning home the boy’s father, Baba, does a powerful exercise where he and his son stand together staring into the mirror and the reflection is a striking picture of a father and son sharing the same shaped eyes, his wise father tells him, “Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars. The comets and constellations show you their secrets and your eyes can foresee the future. Just like mine”. This is a powerful moment as the boy sees his eyes through that of his adored father.
The story continues showing the strong family bonds the young boy shares with his Baba who makes him feel like he can fly. He also has a close relationship with his grandfather, who has eyes just like his father. The father tells the boy glorious stories about his culture, ancestors and Chinese tales. These stories empower the young boy as he finds strength in his ancestors and he sees possibilities for his future. He comes to grow in confidence and sees not only his older relatives share his appearance, but so does his little brother. He has the privilege of seeing three generations who share these wise eyes and he comes to appreciate that these are powerful and visionary just like his Baba’s and grandfather’s. He comes to know that his eyes “shine like sunlit rays that break through dark and doubt. They lift their sights on paths of flight that soar above the clouds. My eyes gaze into space and glimpse trails of light inviting me into impossibilities”.
There are many references – textual and visual in the illustrations – made throughout the story about eyes rising and keeping one’s gaze upwards. The spellbinding illustrations illuminate the double page spreads and are a delight to savour as the three generations share such joy and love for each other and their culture.