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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Mask That Loved to Count (The)
by Luo Xi
Age Range: 6-8
Ever since the onset of the pandemic, it has been important to assess the social and emotional well-being of children. However, nobody has thought about the effects of the pandemic on the social and emotional well-being of masks themselves. The anthropomorphized mask in The Mask That Loved to Count, originally written in Chinese by Luo Xi and translated to English by Helen Wang, has many feelings associated with the world-changing pandemic.
The mask (specifically an N95 mask) copes through counting and tracking the quantitative, tangible effects of the new abstract virus; it counts the number of people buying masks, boxes of medical supply donations, minutes it takes during a bus ride to the hospital, and drops from an intravenous bottle.
Other than counting, the mask feels pride in being an N95 mask—being special and one-of-a-kind. When a disposable medical mask is chosen over it, it feels ignored and forgotten, thinking to itself “ this is boring…I can’t wait to be able to help!” Readers can easily track the mask’s emotions at a given time, especially through Xi’s illustrations (clear and bold) that look almost like screenshots from a child’s television programme, teaching about the pandemic through the perspective of an anthropomorphized mask. Other illustrations of folded, brand-new masks wrapped in plastic also each have their own personalities and facial expressions. As for the main character's mask, it learns a lesson that it is, in fact, special because it “gives people hope and help save lives.” The word “count” takes on a double meaning: the mask counts with numbers, and it counts itself, having worth.
The Mask That Loved to Count is part of Cardinal Media’s series called Hopeful Picture Books, showing the pandemic through a child’s eyes.
Catherine Hurwitz (Apr22)