I got this package in the mail shortly after responding to the opportunity to read an advance copy of Lissy’s Friends, a new book by author/illustrator Grace Lin. Being a graphic designer and having a fine appreciation for a great presentation, I have to say just opening the package blew me away. Not only was there a beautiful book with the distinctive art of Grace Lin adorning its cover, but there was a handmade note card in a small gold envelope, a shimmery gold paper band wrapped around the book and sealed with a sticker bearing her logo, and best of all, a beautiful paper crane attached with gold thread strung in beads. Now this is impressive! The only problem is, it’s setting up very high expectations for the book itself.
But, Lissy’s Friends doesn’t disappoint! A delightful cover. Interior pages loaded with colors, patterns, and shapes just like Lissy’s origami friends. Illustrations that literally come to life, as we see inanimate objects take on their own personalities. From the soft background patterns and detailed borders, to the darling little Lissy herself, Lin put her unique and recognizable style all over this book.
It’s a simple story about a simple problem, one that both kids and parents can relate to, adapting to change and fitting in. Lissy finds the most unusual and imaginative way to do this! Her plan works at first, but she soon discovers that it won’t last. The friends she “made” must move on. (Although these friends do show up in a surprising way later on, just when you think the story is over, showing how moving on to new things can lead to adventure!) The story uses the metaphors of “making” and “losing” friends. Lissy makes new friends each day, only her friends are folded out of colorful paper. Eventually she realizes that losing those friends is exactly what helps her make “real” friends.
Lin was able to do what all great author/illustrators must be able to do, let the words and the images compliment one another. My favorite spread shows this done to perfection. Lissy is walking down the school hallway with other kids around her, but not talking to her. Barely visible is a paper crane peaking out of her pocket. The text reads “The rest of the day, Lissy smiled a secret smile.” This made me smile too. The reader immediately feels like she knows the secret that none of the kids at school do.
The story shows both Lissy’s sad and her happy moments, and ultimately the understanding of what a treasure true friendship really is. As an added bonus, instructions are included on how to fold a paper crane. Kids will not only delight in discovering all the different origami animals in this book, they will be anxious to make one of their very own. In fact, I think it’s time for me to make one for myself!