cover image The Only Child

The Only Child

Guojing. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $19.99 (112p) ISBN 978-0-553-49704-5

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. Agent: Isabel Atherton, Creative Authors. (Dec.)