The Flamingo

The Flamingo, by Guojing, a Chinese artist and writer now living in Vancouver, is not really a picture book. More a graphic novel. But it is a book and it’s full of pictures and it is for picture book-age readers (and the rest of the world) so forgive me stepping out of the genre for today.

The Flamingo is nearly wordless and beautifully illustrated in watercolor, colored pencils, and Photoshop with which Guojing has complete control.

The story begins with a young girl flying solo to spend time with her Lao Lao, or grandmother. I’m going to guess that her Lao Lao lives in Florida because of the landscape and the flamingoes. (Though after doing a little research I learned that flamingoes live in most of coastal Africa, much of South America, western Asia and even Spain.) 

Lao Lao and the girl are united at the airport and they drive to Lao Lao’s house, a cute bungalow of sorts amid palm trees.The home is filled with discoverable stuff. What catches the girl’s attention is a pink feather in a flamingo mug atop a cabinet. She takes the feather and at bedtime asks her grandmother what it is.

This begins the telling of a story from when Lao Lao was about the girl’s age. It is told in bits and pieces throughout the time and activities while the girl is visiting. 

Lao Lao tells of finding an egg and taking it home with her and making a nest for it. And she leaves the girl hanging there. 

After a day of playing on the beach LaoLao and the girl find a hatching egg on the beach. A small turtle emerges and they watch it make its way to the water. Which brings up the question, ‘was there a turtle in young Lao Lao’s egg?’

Lao Lao continues the story and—surprise!—it’s a baby flamingo. She tells the fascinating story of how she raised the flamingo and eventually helped it learn to fly.

The story is broken up between the present, the girl and her Lao Lao enjoying a wonderful visit, and the story of Lao Lao as a girl raising a flamingo. Guojing visually separates the two stories with her art. The present, the time the girl is spending with her Lao Lao, is done mostly in a subtle tritone of brown, a muddy red, and black. When the story of raising a flamingo is being told, it swells into full color. 

And the illustrations are lovely and moody and moving and engaging. The characters are endearing and believable. Just try and not fall in love with the flamingo—from hatchling to flight.

When the vacation is over, the girl flies home. She lives in a busy city (again, me projecting, but think NYC) with traffic and construction and scores of pedestrians, all in a hurry.

She misses her Lao Lao and the adventures they had. And the story of the Flamingo still fascinates her. The story becomes kind of meta here as she creates a wonderful gift for her grandmother. There is beauty and unexpected magic after the girl has returned home. I’ll leave it for you to find out yourself because you really should experience it with Guojing’s lovely art rather than me fumbling through a description. 

This book left me with all the good feels. I’ve meandered through it many times now and am still constructing a narrative. Maybe it is a constantly changing narrative. And then maybe that is what it is supposed to be.

~ kevan atteberry


  1. Oh, this is gorgeous! Thank you, Kevan.

  2. This looks stunning! I think it will be my next book purchase.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow! This is so beautiful! Thanks for the rec!

  4. This is now on my TBR list. Thank you!

  5. I loved every page in this book.

  6. Michael Henriksen

    This sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing about this, Kevan!
    Looking forward to spending time with this book.📚💛

  7. I looooved Guojing’s STORMY. Her art is amazing! Thanks for putting this one on my radar; I didn’t know about it yet. 🙂

  8. Such a tender story! And such lovely illustrations.

  9. I look forward to reading this book. I love her art & flamingos!

  10. What beautiful art. Such an inspiring story!

  11. I can’t wait to peruse this! Nice review.

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