On children’s loneliness and the healing power of their imagination

Guojing, The Only Child

Published 2015 by Schwartz & Wade, 112p

 

I might have already said it but I love graphic novels and I think they already made their way into the literary cannon. The challenge of discussing not only words but also visual details creates a complex bonding with the story and reveals all its layers profoundly.

The Only Child is a wordless wonder, Guojing’s first book. The author is part of the 1980’s generation that grew up in China under the one-child policy so she turned this experience in a meaningful story. 1980’s was also a decade of little children left home alone as both parents needed to work to support the family and no other low-priced options were available.

This is the story of a delightful, little girl who is left home alone and needs to find ways to amuse herself and fill the loneliness in the house. After watching TV, playing dress-up and exploring all her toys, the child ventures outside in the snow and boards a bus for her grandmother’s house; but she falls asleep and misses the stop.

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Finding herself in a forest, the girl experiences even a deeper feeling of loneliness. Crying and longing for connection she follows a stag in the heart of the wood. The animal proves to be the best protector. Together the two travel high in the majestic clouds and meet a baby seal and an enormous whale. The journey is a perfect fantasy, extremely tender and warmful yet bittersweet. The child remains insecure until the stag brings her back to the concerned family.

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Guojing’s art is remarkable; the graphite illustrations create a quiet atmosphere emphasizing the loneliness and boredom but opening the door for a beautiful dream. Apart from sadness and confusion, solitude is children’s impulse to creativity.

Complement this impressive story with a similar style, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival or his reinterpretation of The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales.

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