The Stone Hatchlings
By Sarah Tsiang
Illustrated by Qin Leng
When an author captures the magic of a child’s imagination as deftly as Sarah Tsiang has done in her book The Stone Hatchlings, the result is absolute enchantment. The words are spare, lyrical, the illustrations spare, but so amazingly alive. This is a book for the youngest of readers, but it could grace any coffee table.
Abby finds a pair of stones. Stones? They are eggs. She brings them in. A series of glorious illustrations show us how she builds a nest for them. Chopsticks and scarves fail, Dad needs his shoes (the illustration showing the puppy sniffing Dad’s sock-clad feet is hilarious). But Abby is determined, and she finds a solution.
Her parents nurture her imaginings just as she nurtures the stone eggs. Abby, the mama bird, cannot leave the eggs alone, so the egs come to the dinner table with her as she works “on hatching the eggs.” An unhatched egg is a treasure. Abby imagines what would hatch from the egg.
The book provides so many opportunities for conversation with the readers. How do you know, just by looking at the egg, what creature it belongs to? And does it matter? “I’ll love you even if you are alligators,” Abby says. The illustrator’s pencil and Abby’s paintbox almost convince the reader that it is birds that have hatched.
One of the glorious illustrations show Abby racing through the house with her stone birds as Papa’s coffee, newspaper and eyeglasses go flying. Another pictures Abby as she reads to cheer up the birds, while the puppy, unnoticed, unravels a sweater. The illustrations are simple but work on many levels.
And then one day the birds do not sing. It is time to let them go–another conversation point. Readers at the second grade level will understand this desire to be free. Abby leaves them out in the yard. The ending is so true to a child’s thinking: their stories change at the speed of light, from stones to birds to stones again. Parents are left scratching their heads and wondering…a great read aloud book.