No Other Tale The Same: The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper by Kate Coombs, although written for a very young audience, contains an important message, as do virtually all picture books. Coombs' simple message is that everyone needs balance. She conveys this message through charming words, illustrated with beautiful pictures by Heather M. Solomon.

In this tale, Kalli, the secret-keeper of Maldinga is responsible for keeping all of the villagers' secrets. Each time one of them reveals a secret (like a baker that charges unfairly for his products) that secret becomes a stone or other heavy object in Kalli's hand. She files the secrets away in her drawers and becomes heavier. The villagers, having gotten their deep, dark secrets off their chests, walk away a little lighter. Yet when the villagers aren't telling Kalli secrets, they shy away from her, probably in shame. Only one villager, Taln, the potter's son, never tells her secrets and always talks to her.

Finally, Kalli collapses under the weight of the secrets and isolation and can't take it anymore. The villagers rush to her side and begin to tell her happy secrets (like the old man who says he married his true love). Each secret literally takes wings in Kalli's hands - a butterfly, a bird, etc. Taln tells her he's in love with her, the secret-keeper. This secret becomes a rose.

Kalli finds her balance. She still keeps the villagers' dark secrets, yet she has Taln to help her carry the burden, and the villagers meet annually in the springtime to publicly declare their happy secrets. Why read children's books, one might ask? Often they contain more layers and wisdom than one might imagine. The way Coombs describes dark secrets as literally weighing someone down and happy secrets as literally taking flight is so simple, yet so profound. Good secrets balance out the bad, and Coombs urges her readers to find a balance of both in their lives.