All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2002

Editor: Patricia Lee Gauch

Art Director: Cecilia Yung

Designer: Gunta Alexander

Awards and Honors:

Parents' Choice Recommended Award;

Junior Library Guild selection;

Selected for “The Original Art 2002, Celebrating the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration,” an exhibition sponsored by the Society of Illustrators, New York.

All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet, by Barbara Helen Berger

How far is it to Lhasa? Very far. Up windy slopes, over mountain torrents and snow, a boy and his yak keep going. Will they ever reach the holy city of Lhasa? The boy doesn’t know, but an old woman has told him he can make it there before nightfall. This is a parable from Tibet retold in words and art as a picture book. Its wise and simple message will encourage children of any age who dream of a shining goal that seems “very far.”

Panel from All the Way to Lhasa by Barbara Helen Berger

“Long ago in the land of Tibet, an old woman sat by the road to the holy city of Lhasa.”

“Wear this exquisitely rendered tale like a calming shirt under your own shirt. Let it guide your own steps. As ever, there could be no paintings more visionary or transporting than those of Barbara Helen Berger. This book is a blessing and a gift for all ages.”

—Naomi Shihab Nye (June 2002)

Potala Palace from All the Way to Lhasa by Barbara Helen Berger


Publishers Weekly
August 19, 2002, p.88
*starred review*

In this retelling of a Tibetan parable, Berger (Grandfather Twilight) features two people on their way to the holy city of Lhasa. An old woman sitting alongside the road to Lhasa (dressed in burgundy and yellow, the holy colors) tells and impatient man on a speedy horse who asks how far it is to Lhasa, “Very far… You’ll never make it there before night.” Meanwhile, in answer to the same question from a boy leading his “steady yak,” the woman replies, “Very far.. but you can make it there before night.” Berger’s mural-like, full-spread paintings, bordered in deep burgundy, chronicle the boy’s treacherous mountain journey as he navigates switchbacks, coaxes his reluctant yak across a flimsy rope bridge and braves a blizzard. (He also passes fluttering prayer flags, mantra-carved stones and spired shrines, which, an afterword notes, simulate actual landmarks that Tibetans would encounter on the pilgrimage.) The wise woman has recognized in the boy a determination simply to keep putting “one foot in front of the other” (the book’s refrain)—and, sure enough, he is rewarded with a safe and timely arrival at the magnificent city (he passes the “fallen horse and rider” on his way). Placing her realistically rendered hero in a lyrically stylized landscape—a world where clouds and waves curl like tendrils (often spilling beyond the paintings’ borders), and magical figures materialize in the mountain air—Berger subtly underscores both the mysticism of the journey and the universality of its down-to-earth, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race moral. Ages 4-8

School Library Journal
September 2002

K-Gr 4—The story here is a simple one, inspired by a Tibetan parable. An old woman sitting by the roadside is approached by a galloping horse and rider and asked, “How far is it to Lhasa?” The woman replies that he will never make it before nightfall. She is next approached by a young boy, slowly but persistently plodding along on foot with his yak. He poses the same question, but is told that he will be able to reach the holy city before dark. Predictably, the boy’s stolid determination helps him reach his goal, passing the exhausted horse and rider who have frittered away their energy along the way. The tale is reminiscent of Uri Shulevitz’s The Treasure (Farrar, 1979), not so much in terms of its message as in its ability to deliver a pearl of wisdom with grace and simplicity. Berger’s illustrations, done in acrylic, colored pencil, and gouache, sweep across spreads and are laced with numerous symbols from Tibetan art and culture, all of which are explained in an extensive author’s note. On her Web site, the author states: “A picture book is a journey for eye and ear, heart and mind.” Berger’s readers take such a journey here, and it is well worth the trip.

—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
Fall 2002

Here is a book for all children who have a dream that seems far, far away. In this luminously illustrated picture book, a young boy and his yak set out, traveling up windy slopes, over rickety bridges, and through torrential floods, to reach the shining city of Lhasa. Despite the discouragement of an old woman he meets on the way, and despite his fear of the dark and the snow, the boy places one foot in front to the other. In the last rays of the sun, he hears bells and drums and – Emaho! He has made it. Inspired by a tale heard from a Tibetan lama, Barbara Helen Berger’s rendering offers readers both young and old a breathtaking view of the enchanted land of Tibet.

Gillian Engberg
October 10, 2002

Pilgrimages to Tibet

Berger, Barbara Helen. ALL THE WAY TO LHASA: A TALE FROM TIBET. 2002, 32p. Illus. Putnam/Philomel $15.99 (0-399-23387-3)

Brown, Don. FAR BEYOND THE GARDEN GATE: ALEXANDRA DAVID-NEEL’S JOURNEY TO LHASA. 2002, 32p. Illus. Houghton. $16 (0-618-08364-2)

PrsS-Gr. 2. Here are two titles that combine inspiring stories of dreams and challenges with attractive introductions to Tibet’s culture and religion for the very young.

Using very different approaches, these two beautifully illustrated books center around journeys to the Tibetan holy city of Lhasa. Berger distills the pilgrim’s quest into a simply told, evocative tale, reminiscent of The Tortoise and the Hare, with a familiar message. Basic, rhythmic language describes two young men on their way to Lhasa. The first boy speeds across the difficult terrain on horseback; the second walks slowly, leading a yak, “one foot in front of the other.” It’s the careful, slower pilgrim who makes it to the holy city. Berger’s paint-and-pencil illustrations are gloriously colored and filled with subtle details borrowed from Tibetan Buddhism: horn players, ceremonial chimes, and lotus blossoms, all flowing from rolling pink and gold clouds. An author’s note gives some background on Lhasa and points to the story’s universal theme.

Far beyond the Garden Gate expands the pilgrim’s story in a fascinating picture-book biography of adventurer and Buddhist scholar Alexandra David-Neel …

Mandala: Buddhism in Our Time
September-November 2002

The exquisite illustration on this page comes from a new children’s book by Barbara Helen Berger, winner of the Golden Kite Award for Illustration. In All the Way to Lhasa, Berger takes young readers “through the looking glass” and into the enchanted land of Tibet. Through luminescent watercolors she brings power and beauty to the retelling of an original parable. Its wise and simple message will encourage children of any age to reach for that shining goal, even the ones that seem “very far.” Published by Penguin Putnam.

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