Hidden Gem

Linda Liu

Henry Holt & Co., 2023

Agent: Thao Le

(It also happens to be about a rock...)

Prepare to fall in love with this debut picture book and its irresistibly quirky story of a tiny, unassuming rock's journey to self-confidence, perfect for fans of Eric Carle & Jon Klassen.

When a small pebble sees others gathering on the steps of the Museum of Rocks, he grows curious. Once inside the esteemed halls, he is shocked by what he discovers. The only rocks on display are glittering gemstones, geodes, and crystals!

These beautiful stones make him wonder: Can he be special, too? Perhaps he’ll find an answer in the World’s Most Beautiful Gem exhibition . . . or maybe, just maybe, he will find the answer inside himself.


"In this straightforward diamond-in-the-rough story, newcomer Liu explores the fascinating forms of rocks via digital and watercolor spreads that foreground the objects’ variegated colors and textures. On an opening page, the narrating rock—small, gray, and smooth, with a lighter-colored vein running through it—introduces itself: “I rock/ and roll// and tumble.” A piece of paper blows toward it, an invitation to a “World’s Most Beautiful Gem” exhibition at a museum, which common rocks visit to see distinctive gems up on plinths. Instead of rocking and rolling, though, the entities on display “shock/ and glow// and humble.” How might the narrator, an average rock, become as notable as those on display? Should it sculpt itself into a different form, or paint itself a different color? (Liu renders the rock as part of several well-known works of art in the background.) Instead, the museum’s star exhibit gives the rock a luminous, shimmering vision of itself as exceptional after all. Alongside message-forward text, it’s the glowing colors of Liu’s distinctive visual style that carry the overarching message of self-wonder and innate worth." Publisher's Weekly

"A rock explores existential questions and is the wiser for its efforts. It’s the Jon Klassen eyes that pull viewers in: black pupils on gray/green irises atop white ovals. With just a hint of movement, they express exactly what the gray, speckled half-orb is feeling. Adults may hear a Paul Simon refrain after the first line—“I am a rock”—while emerging readers will appreciate the smooth rhymes and simple language that nevertheless convey deep thoughts. When a brochure advertising “The World’s Most Beautiful Gem” blows by, the protagonist joins throngs of other stones headed to the Museum of Rocks. Liu’s watercolor and digital compositions include softly textured landscapes with rounded green hills showcasing the domed edifice. The effect of the gorgeous, multicolored gems (also with eyes) on the main character is palpable: “These rocks shock and glow and humble.” The rock wonders how it can be special, too, and imagines following the same rocky journeys as the others or molding itself to be like Michelangelo’s David or various famous paintings whose faces have been replaced with rocks. But seeing its reflection in a dazzling diamond helps the rock grasp its own beauty—and the worth of those around it. While there are many recent children’s books that celebrate identity, make room for this one, which blends subtle humor and superb design for a profound, deftly conveyed message. [...] The levity lightens the mood; the art is breathtaking.—?Kirkus Reviews starred review

"Liu has created a delightful, reflective, rhyming, and engaging book for emerging readers. Her illustrations at first glance look simple, but are unassumingly detailed with social justice, racial, and gender identity connections that allow parents and teachers to talk about inclusion, tolerance, and acceptance within the context of the story, that can easily transfer to daily life and interactions. VERDICT: Children will enjoy having this book read to them and reading it themselves." —School Library Journal