Overnight, Martin has changed. His parents take him to one doctor after another, only to be told there is nothing wrong with their son. At school, his classmates will not play with him. At home his family tries to treat him as if he were the same child. But things are now different. Martin has grown very old in the space of one day. His world will never be the same again. "This haunting story exposes the agony caused by American attitudes towards aging and differences." -- ...
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Stranger in the Mirror

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Overnight, Martin has changed. His parents take him to one doctor after another, only to be told there is nothing wrong with their son. At school, his classmates will not play with him. At home his family tries to treat him as if he were the same child. But things are now different. Martin has grown very old in the space of one day. His world will never be the same again. "This haunting story exposes the agony caused by American attitudes towards aging and differences." -- School Library Journal, starred review

When a young Asian-American boy wakes up one morning with the face of an old man, he has trouble convincing people that he is still himself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A child's unrest over the departure of his grandfather sparks the Caldecott Medalist's provocative new story, which begins with Sam gripped by the thought of ``how small Grandpa had looked waving good-bye.'' Grandpa's destination is not revealed, but it's not a pleasant one. So when the boy awakens the next day to find that he has the face of an elderly man, he worries that he, too, will be sent away, ``you know, where Grandpa went.'' At school, Sam is teased by classmates and shunned by friends. Baffled and hurt, he is in the process of running away when a skateboard lands at his feet. He takes off on it, impressing a playground of kids with his tricky maneuvers. Tired, the man-child returns home and, talking to himself, utters words that cut to the core of the story: "Who cares what I look like? I'm Sam. Nobody can change that." Once this valuable if obvious message is delivered, Say returns Sam to his youthful self, camouflaging the transformations by implying that Sam has been dreaming. More affecting than the text's messages about outer appearances and inner truth, and clearer than the undercurrents about perceptions of the aged, are Say's hauntingly realistic paintings, which simultaneously present a convincing likeness of an old man's face on a boy's body and an equally effective sense of the confusion and betrayal Sam is experiencing within. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Marny Helfrich
In this book, which, aside from a brief introduction written on an adult level, consists entirely of watercolor illustrations, of a young boy underging a startling transformation. Suddenly, he is turned into an old man. His progress through the day, the reaction of his family, doctors, and friends, and his own handling of the situation are the subject of the "story." Ultimately, he realizes that however he may look and however people may react to him, what matters is what's inside. The illustrations are beautiful and the people portrayed lively and from an Asian heritage. This book is probably most appropriate for children in conjunction with parents or teachers, since it may be confusing or slightly frightening, especially for young children who are still learning about how their bodies may or may not change.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This haunting story exposes the agony caused by American attitudes toward aging and differences. Sam enters an empty house after school and instantly pictures his grandfather's final wave good-bye (presumably off to a nursing home). Sam dreads getting old. The next morning, his entrance into the kitchen causes a family commotion; when he turns to look in the mirror, his face is wrinkled, his hair gray. His mother, the epitome of calmness, marches him off to the doctor who diagnoses an unspecified skin condition and sends him to school. There, as in the kitchen and examining room scenes, the onlookers face Sam and readers-registering horror and repulsion. After a second day of taunting and teasing at school, he prepares to run away, but a skateboard rolls by and Sam hops on, losing himself in the experience. That night he comes to terms with the difference between his inner and outer selves. Upon awakening, he again sees a stranger in the mirror-this time it is Sam the boy. Was this a dream or did it really happen? Say leaves that question unanswered; there are details that could support either conclusion. But all the elements-from the abundance of gray, undecorated backgrounds to the utter pain in Sam's eyes; from the disturbing incongruity of the aged face on the small, sneakered body, to the spare, matter-of-fact telling-contribute to a book that is uncomfortable, unsettling, and oh-so-necessary. Use it to probe issues of appearance in the classroom or with individuals. It is far superior to the many books on differences that glut the politically correct market.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA
Hazel Rochman
Say's exquisite watercolors, realistic and filled with light, show gothic horror in ordinary life. Children will recognize the nightmare: What if I turned into a freak? As always with Say, understatement adds to the intensity. In the first frame, Sam stands in the doorway looking into his home; he's a kid in baggy jeans and T-shirt holding a book bag and a skateboard. He's sad that his grandfather has been taken away. "I don't want to get old," Sam thinks. The next morning he wakes up and sees a stranger in the mirror with a child's body and an old man's wrinkled face and gray hair. His parents are appalled. His little sister insists he's Grandpa. The doctors give his condition a technical label. The kids at school jeer; even teachers stop and stare. Alone and outcast, he plans to run away. There's some plot contrivance--he's saved when he discovers he can still fly and jump on a skateboard "I'm Sam. Nobody can change that" , and he wakes up looking like a boy again. But the uneasiness remains. The pictures are nearly all set in doorways, before mirrors, on thresholds. Sam is transformed, and he discovers himself. As in the best monster stories, the clean, well-lit, uptight world holds terror.
From the Publisher
"This haunting story exposes the agony caused by American attitudes towards aging and differences." School Library Journal, Starred
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547347325
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/26/1998
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book—published in 1972—in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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