About the Holiday
Readers, writers and book lovers everywhere will love today’s holiday. International Children’s Book Day! What a time to visit Celebrate Picture Books! International Children’s Book Day was created in 1967 to celebrate young readers and children’s books across the globe. The holiday falls on April 2nd to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, the writer of many of the classic fairy tales. Each year a different country’s Board on Books for Young People is chosen to create a theme for a holiday. Currently there are 75 different countries involved. An author and illustrator are also elected to write an inspirational message for young readers and to design a poster to celebrate.
This year, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is sponsoring the holiday. The theme this year is “The Music of Words.” The poster was created by Hans Christian Andersen Award recipient, Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, and contains a beautiful message on the music of words, written by Award-winning Cuban American author, Margarita Engle. How might you celebrate this fantastic holiday? You already are! Visiting Celebrate Picture Books blog is a wonderful way to honor the day. Additionally, spend some time reading some of your favorite picture books to young readers and discover new stories that highlight diversity and the music of words. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book to celebrate young readers globally.You can view and download this year’s International Children’s Book Day Poster here. Read “The Music of Words” here.
To find more spectacular books to share all through the month, check out USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List posted on the USBBY’s webpage.
Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Reviewed by Dorothy Levine
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners
Written by Joanna Ho | Illustrated by Dung Ho
On her way out of the house, a girl stops in front of the hall mirror to take a look. At school, the girl waves to two friends, their eyes wide and bright as they wave back. “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl. Big eyes, long lashes. Not me,” the girl says. She turns to face the reader head on; her black hair cascading past her shoulders. “I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”
With this comparison, the young Asian girl embarks on a journey of observation, self-love, and family wisdom. She reflects on the beauty of her own, unique eyes and how they resemble those of her family members. Eyes are not just for seeing the tangible, our narrator explains: “When Mama tucks me in at night, her eyes tell me I’m a miracle. In those moments when she’s all mine, flecks of dancing gold tell me I’m hers too.”
The girl considers how her eyes connect her to other generations of her family, specifically her grandmother, her amah. When her amah tells her stories of Chinese folklore, the girl can see “Guanyin with the Monkey King sitting on a lotus” and other traditional characters as well as lychee trees, mountains, and lotus blossoms—all within her grandmother’s eyes. “Her eyes are filled with so many stories; I can fall inside them and swim until time stops.”
The narrator then cheerfully describes her younger sister Mei-Mei who watches patiently for her to return home from school. “…when she looks at me in that Mei-Mei way, I feel like I can fly,” she says. Following her reflection on her sister, our protagonist is featured close up with beautiful swirls of clouds, swallows, fish, and dragon together; her hair elegantly turns into a river for koi fish to swim in while a Chinese phoenix and dragon fly above her. The creatures, mythological and real follow her hair in a harmonious flow, merging the past and hope for the future.
She is then pictured powerfully standing on top of a lush green mountain, fists balled, ready for her eyes to “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down.” The narrator is confident, strong, aware of her beauty, and kind towards others. “My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution. / They are Mama and Amah and Mei-Mei. They are me. And they are beautiful,” she states—a perfect role model for all young people.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners teaches young readers to love themselves and all their uniqueness. Author Joanna Ho’s writing is lyrical and poetic, a joy to read for book lovers of all ages. The writing is simple but conveys infinitely deep messages; celebrating one’s culture and beauty, even when they are not always highlighted by mainstream society, fighting stigmas and finding strength in family connections are some of the many themes that can be found in this beautiful tale. Joanna Ho provides a much-needed story of radical love, joy, and connection. The gorgeous, poetic lines of this book may even bring tears to readers’ eyes.
Illustrator Dung Ho adds many beautiful details that liven up the story beyond the words. All of the spreads with the protagonist’s family feature meaningful eye contact and smiles so bright, one can’t help but smile along with the characters. Bursts of blossoms, lotus flowers, and butterflies adorn almost every page, symbols of natural beauty. Inside the family’s home, elements of childhood like stuffed animals, crafts, and playing dress-up, sit side-by-side with objects of their heritage, including Chinese porcelain vases and tea sets, guardian lion statues, and a koi kite. Sunbeams, dragons, and birds weave in and out of the pages in a harmonious stream with swirls of feathers, reds, yellows, and lush greens. The colors and intricate illustrative details fill the book with life, wonder, and affection.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book for children examining their own features and embracing their identities. Books that celebrate diversity are invaluably important, especially in times of political polarization and racism. The lesson of self-love is one that is important for all young children to read about and learn to embrace. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0062915627
Discover more about Joanna Ho and her books on her website.
You can connect with Dung Ho on Instagram.
Watch the gorgeous Eyes that Kiss in the Corners book trailer!
International Children’s Book Day Activities
Coloring Pages, Word Search, and More!
Hans Christian Andersen Coloring Pages
You can color pictures from many of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales online at HelloKids.
To download and print coloring pages from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, visit Animations A2Z.
“The Music of Words” Word Search
Find 21 words in this word search from Margarita Engle’s message “The Music of Words,” written to celebrate the International Children’s Book Day of 2021!
International Children’s Book Day Word Search
Read “The Music of Words” Message
You can view the 2021 International Children’s Book Message from Margarita Engle in five different languages here.
Check out these organizations that are actively working to fight anti-Asian racism and consider donating
Stop APPI Hate | CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities
You can find Eyes that Kiss in the Corners at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review