Wisdom without compassion is like a lantern without a flame.

Confession time: I’m a sucker for beautifully illustrated picture books, and Ling Li’s Lantern illustrated by Benjamin Johnston is just that. Published by South Australian-based MidnightSun Publishing and written by Western Australian author, Steve Heron, Ling Li’s Lantern will delight older and younger readers alike.

Da Zhi has three children and from time to time, presents them with a challenge to nurture their wisdom. One day Da Zhi challenges his children to fill the emptiness of a pagoda and gives them each a pouch with some coins. Ling Li is the youngest child and ventures into the village to fulfil her father’s quest. Along the way, Ling Li stops to help a number of villagers, and at each stop her pouch of coins dwindles. Her generosity and kindness is noticed by the lantern seller who sells her a lantern for a special price. When Ling Li returns to her father carrying the lantern she is convinced he will think her foolish, but Da Zhi shows her how the lantern fills the pagoda with light.

I really enjoyed Ling Li’s Lantern. As well as exquisite illustrations full of movement and emotion (don’t get me started on the gorgeous end papers!), I enjoyed the gentle pace and message of the story.

Told in the style of a fable, readers are guided towards contemplation of Ling Li’s actions and how her kindness was rewarded. Kindness is surely an antidote to the world of uncertainty we are currently faced with. Ling Li’s Lantern is a story of light overcoming darkness – a wonderful book for our times. Highly recommended.

Many thanks to MidnightSun Publishing for a review copy of this book.


“Wisdom without compassion is like a lantern without a flame.”

Ling Li’s Lantern is a heart-warming story about compassion, kindness and the true nature of wisdom.

Steve Heron’s sagacious storytelling and Benjamin Johnston’s meticulous illustrations merge in this delightful tale set in a Chinese village.

Wise man, Da Zhi sends his three children on a quest to nurturetheir wisdom. Ling Li and her two brothers are each challenged to fill one of three pagodas with something they obtain from a modest sum of money given by their father. The first two children succeed in their task, and the wisdom they demonstrate pleases their father.

Ling Li, the youngest, spends most of the day in the village markets in search of a wise choice. She returns home empty-handed, except for a lamp to guide her way.

Ling Li’s head hangs low. ‘Papa I’ve spent all the coins you gave me and have nothing to fill the pagoda.’

Word of Ling Li’s deeds at the markets had reached her father. He leads her into the third pagoda, where she is delighted with a surprising outcome.

Read my previous interview with Steve Heron