Woodpecker Girl (& Fishtastic! Winner)

Woodpecker Girl, written by Chingyen Liu and I-Tsun Chiang, is gloriously illustrated by Heidi Doll. This is the true story of Yipei Huang. A girl born with cerebral palsy and destined to life in a wheel chair. The dream-like illustrations are magical. They portray Yipei often as quite small on the page watching her classmates run and play or wishing that she could romp with her sister and her puppy. Yipei makes friends, but longs to be able to bring happiness to others and wonders how someone with her limitations will ever be able to accomplish this?

When a teacher notices the way Yipei can move her head, he fashions a headband with a paintbrush for Yipei to use. She finds that by bobbing her head, like a woodpecker, she is able to make beautiful pictures. Athough painting in this manner is difficult, it allows her to express her imagination and feel free.

There is back matter that tells us that this story is true and shows us some of Yipei’s paintings. The illustrator, Heidi Doll, has done a wonderful job of incorporating Yipei’s style into her own artwork throughout the story.

When I sat down to write this post I read one major review who saw as a negative exactly what I found so inspiring about this book. The reviewer felt that Yipei’s disability was depicted as tragic and the narrative was not uplifting enough. That is exactly what drew me into this book and why I wanted to recommend it. It is this realistic description of a small child destined to life in a wheel chair that felt very honest to me. It allows young readers to put themselves in Yipei’s position and understand how she must feel not to be able to run and play like they can. It is Yipei’s uplifting spirit that is undeniably inspiring.

As is her glorious artwork.

The Winner of a copy of the book, Fishtastic! is Danny Espinal! Please email me your address through my website. Congratulations, Danny!

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. What a great book! Another wonderful one from Reycraft. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you! This book looks stunning.

  3. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    This looks gorgeous!

  4. The reality of Yipei’s situation is part of who she is. I thought what Yipei does with it is very uplifting and inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

    • That’s an excellent point, Judy, and part of what I found so exceptional about this book. Yipei’s handicap is not sugar-coated, hidden, or ‘overcome’. Because it can’t be. For me, this seemed a very honest portrayal and something that would really benefit a reader, library, and classroom. Along with the gorgeous artwork, it’s what I found so inspiring about the book. Thank you for visiting and sharing!

  5. Gorgeous book! Congrats!

  6. Wow, this book looks and sounds lovely. I am putting it on my must-read list. Thank you for the recommendation!

  7. You were quite right to recommend this book! The challenges don’t need to be painted in a warm and fuzzy way, her triumph in rising to those challenges is what needs to inspire readers.? Her paintings look beautiful.

  8. What a wonderful, heartfelt book -congrats!

  9. Absolutely beautiful! Can’t wait to read it. Thanks!

  10. Yipei is an inspiration!! Good for the teacher who was mentioned, too!!
    It sounds like a great story and was a great blog post.

  11. So often we bring our adult responses and emotions to the stories we read. But I imagine a child would not respond with sadness about Yipei’s limitations. “Tragedy” is an adult response. Children would likely look at what Yipei desires and creates, and see possibility as opposed to tragedy. Thank you for spotlighting this book!

    • Thank you, Patricia, for taking the time to share your thoughtful comments. I agree entirely and believe that by understanding how Yipei is feeling all readers, young and older will feel inspired by her. Thanks so much!

  12. What a beautiful book. I also find that living with your limitations and expressing them as limitations and not differently abled makes for a more honest portrayal of the reality. It takes so much courage. Thank you for showcasing this inspiring and beautiful book from Reycraft.

    • Thank you so much, Vijaya and I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe that’s why this book stood out for me and resonated in the way that it did. I hope that other readers will feel the same. Thank you!

  13. What a touching sweet story! The artwork is beautiful.

  14. Gorgeous. She’s so good!

  15. This looks spectacular and gorgeous and inspiring. And I love that she sees her method like a woodpecker. Must find this book! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer!

  16. Joan Schoettler

    Beautifully written feelings and amazing illustrations make for a wonderful book! Thanks for writing it!

  17. Angie Quantrell

    This is a gorgeous book! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  18. The illustrations are stunning. And I’ve never heard of Reycraft. Where have I been? Thanks for sharing Jennifer!

  19. GORGEOUS! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  20. Terri A Michels

    what a complete work of art!

  21. Lisa Frenkel Riddiough

    This is beautiful all the way around. Thank you for sharing.

  22. An incredible story and gorgeous book. Thank you for sharing!

  23. Looks beautiful and I appreciate your personal take on the story.

  24. Cassie Bentley

    This looks wonderful. Just the few illustrations shown have me intrigued. So soft and delicate.

  25. Hi Cassie, I hope you enjoy the book when you see it. The illustrations are lovely. Thank you!

  26. Wow. This book sounds amazing–both the story and the illustrations. Thank you for sharing it, Jennifer! The timing was perfect as I’m working with a writer who has similar goals for her story in terms of depicting the realities of certain experiences while providing a sense of hope, resilience, or other positive aspects. I can’t wait to read this!

  27. I love that it’s gorgeous and honest. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

  28. Thank you for sharing this beautiful and important book. After reading your post, I just read it with my CG and we were speechless. It is amazing — the story and the art. Thank you.

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