“May I go outside and play?” Shau-yu asks.
“I need you to go to the store first,” her father replies.
On My Way to Buy Eggs by Chih-Yuan Chen starts simply enough. In this father-daughter exchange, it seems Shau-yu’s intentions for the day are reversed, but her trip to the store becomes the play, not a postponement of it. She chases shadows, greets neighborhood animals, transforms found objects into treasures and the back alley ways of her surrounding area into magical places. Imagination allows her to see her ordinary path in a new light – that and the discovery of a blue marble and lost pair of glasses.
The everyday nature of this story is where its power lies. Not only does it showcase childlike wonder and the power of play, On My Way to Buy Eggs proves that life occurs in the small moments. The true experiences occur in the in-between.
Shau-Yu returns home at the end of the book. The two final pages of the book, a spread of illustration, show her playing in the background while her father prepares supper with the eggs in the foreground. The wordless scene incorporates all the facets of her journey. Whimsy and the necessary intersect. Real life and the imaginary merge.
Children form identity through a sense of belonging, a place to call home, a combination of play, responsibility, and autonomy – all of which Shau-Yu encounters on her way to buy eggs.