Author Joanna Ho and illustrator Dung Ho’s Eyes That Kiss in the Corners is a joyful, tender exploration of family and diversity.
The book's narrator, a young girl, begins by describing how her eyes look different from her friends’ eyes. Her friends have “big eyes” with “lashes like lace trim on ballgowns.” But her own eyes “glow like warm tea” and “kiss in the corners.”
The girl reflects on what her eyes have in common with her family’s eyes. As she plays with her mother one day, the girl sees that her mother’s eyes “crinkle into crescent moons” when she smiles. She notices that her eyes have the same sparkle as her grandmother’s and little sister’s eyes.
Throughout Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, which is Joanna Ho's first picture book, she explores themes of family and tradition to construct an intimate portrait of a young girl’s growing sense of herself. The girl draws strength from her connections to the other women in her family—connections she clearly cherishes. Guided by these strong, loving women, the girl comes to realize her place in the continuum of both her family and her culture.
In addition to capturing the touching warmth of the girl’s relationships with her family, Ho uses vivid imagery, repetition and poetic phrasing to make Eyes That Kiss in the Corners truly delightful to read aloud. The girl’s lashes “curve like the swords of warriors,” while her little sister has a “two-tooth smile.” There’s a wonderful sense of intentionality to Ho’s writing, and her rhythm builds to a stirring climax in which the girl declares that her eyes “are a revolution.”
Artist Dung Ho draws on motifs from the natural world to bring scenes from the girl’s life and imagination to the page. Every spread bursts with flowers, butterflies and birds in riotous shades of yellow, orange, pink and green. The girl’s grandmother’s stories of traditions and legends have a dreamier quality as Ho employs swirls and soft spirals of misty blue. These evocative illustrations reinforce the sense of connection to family and culture, depicting how one generation speaks volumes to the next.
In the hands of less talented creators, Eyes That Kiss in the Corners would be a simple exploration of how physical differences make us all unique or special. But Joanna Ho’s powerful language and Dung Ho’s dazzling illustrations have instead created a celebration of family and heritage that’s both luminous and revelatory.