Book review – The Only Child by Guojing

OK, I’m trying to find my brain and the words in a rush here (I don’t really have time to write a review today but this is worth the scramble; please forgive any mistakes).

The Only Child by Guojing

(Published Dec 2015.) 

This is brilliant. Really, really gorgeous. I was chilling out with my seven-year-old son yesterday and he was talking about The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen, saying he thought it was a funny book because it was mostly illustration, with little text.

(Interesting that he noticed because this is the norm for younger readers, and he’s had hundreds of picture books, chapter books, graphic cartoons, etc – but anyway…)

So I said, let’s read The Only Child – a new (to us), wordless book from Christmas that we’d not yet tackled.

This is a book inspired by China’s one-child policy. It’s about loneliness, being lost, and home.

There are no words; it’s simply a series of really beautiful, almost ethereal black and white illustrations about a little girl who goes to sleep on a bus, misses her stop, and is lost. This is her journey back home. It’s poignant, the kind of poignant that you feel when you see your child with an adult some distance away, in the years when you’re rarely separated, and you realise just HOW SMALL they are.

I started narrating, translating the pictures, and my son joined in. He immediately felt the child’s loneliness, her attempts to occupy herself in her solitude, her decision to take the bus to her grandmother’s house, and then her fear as she realised she was lost. Without including any spoilers, he felt her emotions through to the end of the story.

It’s a fantastic book to read with a child at bedtime, if you have the time to curl up and enjoy the cuddle. This book harnesses the natural storytelling ability of children, allowing them to pour their own words into the pages, while still feeling that they have been told a story.

With this book, spare a little time to be with your child after, as well.

‘I need another book now,’ said my son, ‘to read until my throat is OK.’


This is a gentle, soulful story that could appeal to anyone who’s ever felt lost.

And yes, boys DO empathise with female MCs. And yes, diversity and culture. And yes, storytelling without words.




  1. pjlazos says:

    Oh my, I’m tearing up reading this. It sounds like a gorgeous book and I have to get it. My youngest is in college (but I bet she’d read it with me!) so I’m going to have to round up a niece or nephew. :0)

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