Chinese-born illustrator Guojing made her publishing debut in 2015 with The Only Child, a 112-page wordless book that won widespread acclaim and earned a spot on numerous best-of-the-year lists. Exploring an incident from her childhood, she delved into themes of being lost and lonely and finding one’s way home. Now, with Stormy, a wordless book about a homeless dog, Guojing has struck gold again as she explores similar themes with equal emotional resonance, albeit for a slightly younger audience.
The story opens as an adorable, scruffy ball of fluff sleeps under a park bench. A young woman approaches, causing the pup to scamper off. The next day she brings a tennis ball, which the dog cautiously sniffs and finally takes. Guojing shows each move of the dog and woman in a series of moody graphic panels, highlighting the deserted, desolate landscape, the dog’s curiosity mixed with fear and the woman’s quiet patience until she finally leaves to go home. Next, a full-page illustration shows the dog sitting with the ball on a dark, cloudy night, his small, quivering body backlit by moonlight.
On the next visit, the woman and dog actively play with the ball in a lively sequence of panels, and a full-spread illustration shows them gazing at each other from several yards apart, both gloriously backlit by the sun’s golden glow. They’ve made a connection, and in ensuing masterful scenes, Guojing shows how each tries to reach out to the other during the course of a wildly stormy night. Their efforts are, at first, unsuccessful, which makes their eventual reunion in the city all the more sweet.
A master of both mood and lighting, Guojing proves once again that she’s an expert at translating her own heartfelt emotions to the page in a style that can only be described as beautifully cinematic. Deserving of worthy comparisons to wordless classics such as Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy, Stormy is a timeless treasure.