In author and illustrator Corinna Luyken’s atmospheric new picture book, My Heart, young readers see a series of diverse children whose innermost feelings are manifested via clever metaphors and softly rendered monotype illustrations. “My heart is a window,” one small child says as they stare through a window lit with vivid yellow sunlight. “Some days it is tiny,” says another child, wondering at a small and delicate flower in the grass.
In spare and pleasing rhyming text, Luyken explores the fears, joys and emotional vulnerabilities of children—and the moments when their hearts are closed (like a fence) or open (like the flowers in a dazzling bouquet). Luyken juxtaposes the muted grays of pencil with lemony yellows that seem to shine from the pages in her simple, uncluttered compositions. If you linger over the artwork, you’ll see that Luyken includes a subtle heart shape on each spread. Some are more pronounced than others, like the heart that forms in the shadow cast by a long and daunting slide outdoors at twilight, or the heart shapes formed in the pattern of a wrought iron fence.
A heart can be “closed . . . / or open up wide,” and a young girl surrounded by luminescent yellows, with her arms spread wide in joy, proclaims, “I get to decide.” This is the foundation of Luyken’s sensitive story, and it’s an empowering notion: Whether their hearts are closed or open, broken or full, children have autonomy over their own interior lives.