Hope Is an Arrow:
The Story of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran

h1 August 9th, 2022 by jules

“Kahlil wanted to believe in all religions and all people. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


Today I’ve got some spreads from Hope Is An Arrow: The Story of Lebanese-American Poet Khalil Gibran (Candlewick, July 2022), written by Cory McCarthy and illustrated by Ekua Holmes. This picture book biography spends most of its time in the childhood and teenage years of the life of the celebrated poet Kahlil Gibran.

McCarthy constructs the story of Gibran’s life with an overriding metaphor that is evocative and memorable. The book opens:

There once was a boy shot from a bow like an arrow. Strong and straight, he flew across the world, connecting many people with the power of his words. But not right away.

McCarthy’s gift for metaphor is on vivid display throughout these pages. As a boy, Kahlil (Gibran Khalil Gibran) lived in Lebanon, a city whose people were “like two headwinds crashing together.”

Often, we read, he’d escape into the woods. After his father was sent to jail, Kahlil headed to America with his mother and siblings. There, Kahlil lived in Boston and attended Quincy School. He took notice of a divided America: “here, the wealthy crashed with the poor.” He developed a passion and talent for art: “Kahlil felt like this might be his moment to share his secret hope.” (Earlier, the book references one of his escapes into the woods where he “felt a secret hope bloom inside.”) But his mother worried that success would “change [his] young heart. Like a stable bow, she shot her arrow of a song back to Lebanon, to study in the capital city, Beirut.” Later, when returning to America, he learned his mother, sister, and brother had died. He then made his way to New York City and eventually wrote The Prophet, a book that has never gone out of print.

I just have to add: Who knew Kahlil Gibran was on his way to becoming primarily a visual artist but his life path was dramatically altered? Not I. Fascinating. To be sure, as McCarthy notes in the book, he painted for much of his life, but he’s mainly known — thanks to The Prophet — for his poetry.

Detailed backmatter fleshes out Kahlil’s life and provides source notes for the many quotes scattered throughout the book. In fact, McCarthy explains that “a boy shot from a bow like an arrow” alludes to a line from The Prophet, the line that inspired the biography. She adds:

As a Lebanese American, my heart is alive with Gibran’s words and art, and I wrote this book for my own little arrow of a son, to introduce him to the breathtaking life balance presented in The Prophet and encourage him to absorb Gibran’s message: that love, understanding, and hope are choices we make every day.

Ekua Holmes’s detailed and highly textured collage illustrations are mesmerizing. With reverence she captures the curious boy Kahlil was, his eyes bright with wonder. The spreads depicting him in nature, tall trees surrounding him while he sits thinking in the woods, are especially beautiful. Here are a couple more spreads so that you can see for yourself.


“First they crossed the Mediterranean Sea, the waves glowing with blue sunlight. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“… Kahlil returned to Boston, ready to share his message.”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


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HOPE IS AN ARROW. Text copyright © 2022 by Cory McCarthy. Illustrations copyright © 2022 by Ekua Holmes. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

One comment to “Hope Is an Arrow:
The Story of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran

  1. My husband’s family is from Lebanon, and I grew up reading Gibran’s books. He is so inspiring and this book is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this. I have ordered as a gift for my hubby.

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