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[Nonfiction Wednesday] Calligraphic Representations of the Heart’s Many Voices in Ed Young’s Picturebook

Ed Young's "Voices Of The Heart"

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Isn’t our current reading theme just perfect this week? We couldn’t have planned it better, really. Given how special this day is, I thought of also sharing a beautiful picturebook that was given to me – highlighting the many voices of the heart, as only Ed Young is able to express it.

Voices Of The Heart

Written and Illustrated by Ed Young
Published by Scholastic Press, 2003 (First Published 1997)
ISBN-10: 0439456932
ISBN-13: 9780439456937
Book was given to me. Book photos taken by me.

This book is part of the Katie Day Collection in my library – one of the outstanding librarians who used to live here in Singapore but has now moved to Thailand. When I saw this among the books that she was giving away to friends, I made sure to immediately grab it.

I would call this book a homage to calligraphy, language, and the heart’s many voices. What Ed Young created here is an outstanding work of art that showed how certain traits or emotions can best be explained with heart in the very center of it. He also provided a three-paged foreword indicating how he conceptualized the art and narrative:

In this book, Voices of the Heart, I combined visual symbols of the West in the same manner the ancient Chinese used in composing their characters. I focused specifically on characters that contain the heart symbol. The seal style of Chinese calligraphy used is approximately 2,500 years old. It serves as a bridge between the most ancient Chinese pictures and symbols and traditional Chinese characters.

Hence, sorrow is basically a heart that is sad; shame signifies a heart that is able to discern right from wrong; while constancy shows a heart that is faithful. I am always amazed at the pictographic quality of Chinese calligraphy that seems to provide a world of meanings.

In this glorious picturebook, Ed Young has effectively captured its many nuances and its exquisite beauty. Find it and hear your heart whispering to you.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: 13 of 40: Ed Young is Chinese American – but since the heart of the narrative centers around Chinese characters, I’d put this under China.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

4 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Calligraphic Representations of the Heart’s Many Voices in Ed Young’s Picturebook

  1. It seems that it isn’t out in the US yet, but I’ve noted it, Myra. I love Ed Young’s books & this looks wonderful, especially sweet for Valentine’s Day!


  2. Ed Young’s art is so unique. Will keep an eye out for this.


  3. annettepimentel

    How beautiful!


  4. I am not into calligraphy, but this book looks interesting. I like how he uses collage to make the symbols as well as break them down. Very child friendly. I can see a fun art activity with this one. Thanks for the recommendation.


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