The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published by Philomel Books
"Once there was a girl, much like any other whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world." Her grandfather would sit in his armchair and read to the girl, opening to her a world of wonder, inspiring her imagination and creativity. "Until the day she found and empty chair." With her grandfather's passing the little girl found that the only way to protect her heart from pain was to put it in a safe place. "So, she put it in a bottle and hung it around her neck." While that helped the sorrow at first, she soon began to forget about the curiosities and wonders of the world. She grew up. And then she met someone younger who was still curious about the world and she felt it was time to take her heart out of the bottle.
The Heart and the Bottle is painfully beautiful. As I read it the first time I immediately choked up and had to go back and read it a second time to absorb all its gorgeous imaginary and illustrations. The way Jeffers showed the girls imagination is just magical. We see her laying in the grass next to her grandfather, whose dialogue bubble shows a picture of a constellation, while hers shows her seeing the sky as a bumble bee on fire. And then there's the heartbreaking image of her drawing on paper a bunch of doodles and, as she runs to show her grandfather, we see that in her head the picture is of her with a whale...and that when we turn the page to find the empty chair where grandpa used to sit. The thing about The Heart and the Bottle is that it feels like it's more for us the adults than for children; to reminds us to keep the inner child alive. The illustrations will entertain the young readers though, even if they don't quite "get it". Such a beautiful book!