I am a big fan of John J Muth . We have all of his Childrens books and love reading them (probably more than our kids do!). So when Stonecutter caught my eye at the library I quickly added it to the take home pile.
In the style of Muth it is simple yet elegant and profound. It is the retelling of a Chinese folktale about a stonecutter who is dissatisfied with his place in life and keeps seeking out an identity that would give him more power and greater authority.
Like all of Muth’s work, Stonecutter is clearly influenced by Taoist principles. And it offers insight into the nature of power and the problematic nature of chasing after it.
The layout is simplicity itself: one sentence per page and simple black ink drawings – with the feel of Asian Calligraphy to them – on the opposite page. But, as one reviewer noted “The absence of detail compels the reader to participate in the construction of much of the story.” The simple folktale is evoked rather than described or illustrated by the images.
Perhaps because I am in a challenging time in my career and life I found the story deeply touching even if humbling. But no matter your station in life, or our feelings about the future, Stonecutter is a beautiful work of art you can hold in your hand and return to again and again.