Lucid verse and transcendent monotype prints express how a heart can be “a window…a slide…closed / or opened up wide.”
Soothing, simple phrasing and masterful printmaking harness metaphors to make a heart’s complexity accessible to children just recognizing its many manifestations. Recurring rhyme provides an ideal cadence for reading aloud and also a reassuring assertion: Feelings can change from one moment to the next, your heart might sometimes be “cloudy and heavy with rain,” but just as the verse returns to rhyme, a heart can right itself. It "can grow,” and it “can mend, / and a heart that is closed can still open again.” Double-page spreads, inky with coal blacks and smudgy graphite grays, find luminosity and searing beauty through the introduction of a single color, an undauntedly optimistic ginkgo yellow that surges and glows. Pencil work adds specificity (freckles, eyeglasses, buttons, blades of grass) and sometimes emotional jaggedness (pelting rain, a steep, rickety slide). Young readers will see themselves in this impressive book’s children, kids of all racial backgrounds, who hide behind closed curtains, trudge through rain, extend a bouquet of small heart-shaped flowers, stand under the protective boughs of a wondrous tree. The final pages acknowledge a heart’s myriad, sometimes-incongruous roles (“a shadow, / a light, and a guide”) and joyfully assert our own, ultimate self-governance: “Closed or open… // I get to decide.”
Sensitive, stunning words and pictures speak directly to young hearts. (Picture book. 6-11)
BookPage Top Pick in Children's, starred review, January 2019
In author and illustrator Corinna Luyken’s atmospheric new picture book, My Heart, young readers see a series of diverse children whose innermost feelings are manifested via clever metaphors and softly rendered monotype illustrations. “My heart is a window,” one small child says as they stare through a window lit with vivid yellow sunlight. “Some days it is tiny,” says another child, wondering at a small and delicate flower in the grass.
In spare and pleasing rhyming text, Luyken explores the fears, joys and emotional vulnerabilities of children—and the moments when their hearts are closed (like a fence) or open (like the flowers in a dazzling bouquet). Luyken juxtaposes the muted grays of pencil with lemony yellows that seem to shine from the pages in her simple, uncluttered compositions. If you linger over the artwork, you’ll see that Luyken includes a subtle heart shape on each spread. Some are more pronounced than others, like the heart that forms in the shadow cast by a long and daunting slide outdoors at twilight, or the heart shapes formed in the pattern of a wrought iron fence.
A heart can be “closed . . . / or open up wide,” and a young girl surrounded by luminescent yellows, with her arms spread wide in joy, proclaims, “I get to decide.” This is the foundation of Luyken’s sensitive story, and it’s an empowering notion: Whether their hearts are closed or open, broken or full, children have autonomy over their own interior lives. -Julie Danielson