Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 30 Apr 2024

The Invisible Story by Jaime Gamboa & Wen Hsu Chen

It’s probably much too early in 2024 to start talking about which picture book will be my favourite of the year but I’m willing to put a large bet on the likelihood that The Invisible Story by Jaime Gamboa, illustrated by Wen Hsu Chen will be somewhere near the top of that list. This is an absolute cracker!

In a library full of books with wonderful stories that have their magical words and pictures released by readers on a regular basis sits one book with a story that no-one has opened. While all the other books push themselves forward, this one tries to hide and wills everyone to walk past it:

“Whenever the eyes of a reader approached the shelves, our story would begin to quiver like a leaf in the wind, hiding its spine and repeating to itself:

 ‘I’m just a ghost, nobody can see me. 

I’m just a ghost, nobody can see me.’”

And it worked because no-one did see it. Until, that is, a young girl appears in the library and she runs her fingers along the spines of the books until she finds the one that’s desperate to hide.

The book shouts out to the girl in fear – it’s frightened and ashamed. It’s been hiding all this time because it knows it’s not like all those popular books – it has no words on its page! 

“It was true, there were no words written in ink on its pages, nor any shining pictures. The story believed that it was empty – but it was not!”

Far from being empty the pages were covered in small, raised bumps – this book is special and made for special readers who can’t use their eyes to release a story. This book was a Braille book. And this girl knew how to release the soaring, wonderful story inside.

Gamboa ends the book with an informative but simple explanation of Braille – it’s history and how it works – for younger readers who may not have encountered these marvels before.

It’s a simple but affecting story - however, that’s only half the pleasure of this book because I found the illustrations magical. Wen Hsu Chen, who is an artist who uses a mix of watercolours and paper cut-outs to achieve her impacts, has produced a real work of art. In her library white paper cut-outs give the feeling of the page being embossed and the whiteness of the paper dominates until stories leak out of the books in vapour trails of glorious colour. What a treat.

Available from Lantana Publishing, you will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on the shelf.

Terry Potter

May 2024