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The Walking Stick

by Maxine Trottier, Annouchka Gravel Galouchko, illus.

Van is a Vietnamese boy who can “see what is beyond the next hill.” When he finds a teak stick in the forest near a holy temple, he recognizes the stick’s spiritual worth. Blessed by Buddha, the walking stick becomes a talisman that promises to bring him safely home. When war disrupts the pattern of life in rural Vietnam, Van leads his family out of the country with his treasured stick. The new land assures peace, but the tapping of the walking stick on foreign streets never fails to evoke the stories, scents, and lush images of Vietnam. As the “tendrils” of Van’s stories become “wound ’round her heart,” his granddaughter Lynn inherits the yearning of the expatriate to see home again. She travels back to Vietnam, placing the stick at the foot of the Buddha with a prayer of thanks before returning to her own native land.

Trottier’s poetic text, the circle story of traditional folklore given a modern context, harmonizes brilliantly with Galouchko’s illustrations. Colour and intricate detail conjure up the mystical world of Vietnam without napalm. The pictures help create a connected and totemic world, where the watchful eye of Buddha is etched into the landscape with delicate lines. The reader will want to linger over the pages, drawn to the rhythmic beauty of the writing and the exquisite art. While children will be intrigued by the book’s hidden images and bursts of colour, older readers who have experienced the longing for home in another culture will find particular sanctuary here.