review: My Travelin' Eye
My Travelin' Eye written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. Henry Holt, 2007 (978-0-8050-8169-5) $16.95
This book about a girl with what's commonly called "lazy eye" is based on the author/illustrator's own childhood experiences, and she shows throughout that she still likes to give eyes a lot to do, using mixed media and collage to put striking colors, textures and odd bits of detail on every page. Even the acknowledgment page is exciting, with butterfly-winged eyes flying around displaying names of "my special traveling eye friends" and a box for book owners to write the names of their own friends with travelin' eyes.
Young Jenny Sue tells the story of how she was born, "looking both ways." She calls her right eye the navigator: "It sees numbers. It's my guide." (In the illustration, a giant eye wearing a bowtie stands in front of a blackboard, making calculations.) Her left eye, the "travelin eye" is the artist. (Wearing a beret, of course.) "It sees colors. It's the adventurer. Together, we make a great team." But though her travelin' eye reminds Jenny Sue to "look around. And up and down," sometimes it also gets her into trouble, causing her teacher to send a note home recommending an ophthalmologist.
After a visit to an Dr. Dave--a wonderful, exuberant character who waves his arms wildly, exclaiming, "You have a gen-u-ine lazy eye, we must wake it up and set it straight!"--Jenny Sue has to wear an eyepatch and BIG, thick, red glasses. Everything looks very weird for awhile and kids point at her, until she and her mom get creative and make exciting "fashion patches" that the other kids envy. At the next trip to the ophthalmologist, "My travelin' eye had grown stronger. And more confident. I think it just needed some special attention. My one-eyed days were over!" The glasses were there to stay, but Jenny and her mom make them special too, as you can see from the cover illustration. Jenny ends her story by saying "My travelin' eye still wanders sometimes, but that's the true nature of an artist--to see the world in her own unique way."
Kostecki-Shaw does a great job of putting a special, positive spin on her situation, while still being honest over the difficulties it caused her. With its bold and wacky images, the book has so much dash and offbeat humor, it can be enjoyed just as a story--but kids with similar issues will also find information and inspiration. (4-10)
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