The Mysterious Stones
The Mysterious Stones
“When I was a little girl, a mysterious woman on the beach gave me some beautiful stones,” his grandmother said. “I called her the Lady of the Stones.
When my mamá became ill, I put the stones under her pillow. I thought they might help her get well.”
“Did she get better?”
“Yes, she got well.”
Later at the market, Kiki and his abuela bought chayotes, sugar apples, plums, cashews, limes, loquats, eggplants, carrots, bananas, pineapples, grapefruits and melons. Smells of celery and cilanstro, ginger and turmeric, filled the air.
As they walked back, Kiki’s abuela said, “Your papá will never forget you. He loves you and one day he’ll return.”
Kiki, a young Cuban boy, desperately misses his father who has left him with his uncle and his grandmother having “sailed away on the open sea”. One night, Kiki dreams of a magical white-haired lady and later sees her on the beach, her boat moored nearby. She leaves him a gift of coloured stones that he hides in a secret place. Kiki believes they are a symbol of hope, indicating his father will return. His grandmother speaks of a similar incident from her own childhood, showing him the stones she received at a sad time in her own life. This further reinforces his optimism.
This evocative story for children aged 4-7 depicts in clear, sympathetic language a young child’s preoccupation and longing for an absent parent, uncertain if or when he will return. While there is no definite resolution to Kiki’s anxiety, he finds his own way of keeping hope alive. He is also assured by his grandmother’s comforting words about his father’s love for him. Kiki’s home life is shown as loving and secure with an understanding grandmother who recognizes his anxiety and an uncle with whom he goes fishing and who is doubtful about the reality of Kiki’s cherished mysterious lady.
The vibrant illustrations in gorgeous vivid colors capture the feeling of the environment in which Kiki lives. They depict an eager, rather wistful Kiki against a backdrop of ocean, beaches and blue sky or his partaking in trips to the market with Grandma and cozily at home surrounded by mouth-watering food. The lady of the stones is represented as enigmatic and benign. The end papers representing the colored stones are simply beautiful.
The stones are not the only mystery in this story as the author leaves many questions unanswered, and so, like Kiki, readers live with uncertainty. This only adds to the poignancy of the story that will stay in readers’ minds long after the book is finished. The Mysterious Stones is a title to share between generations, one that ends on a note of hope, perfect in today’s world.
Aileen Wortley, a retired children’s librarian, resides in Toronto, Ontario.