With the recent Olympics the past several weeks seemed a suitable time to study China. PC and I thought there would be a fair amount of information available, and to our pleasure there were several very good documentaries on China on the television. We also splurged and purchased several new books and found a few in our library. I share the list in the hope of assisting anyone studying China. The chapter books were all after Mao’s Revolution, the picture books more a cultural exposure.
Picture books for the younger ones:
The Cloudmakers – James Rumford was a big winner. The pictures were soft and inviting and the storyline was a true education, and based on a fact as well.
Many, many years ago men from Kazakhstan were raiding over the border of China. During one such raid a grandfather and his grandson were swept up in the raid. They were to be sold as slaves until it was stated that they could make ‘clouds.’ They were given 7 days to prove they could, using their hemp sandals the little family set about making paper. There follows a detailed and amazing account of the process. They were successful and went to Arabia to teach others their trade. From here paper making spread westward.
Princess and I were so taken with this book that we set about making our own paper.
The Great Wall of China by Leonard Everett Fisher. A very readable but informative picture book of the building of China’s wall to keep out the Mongol’s hordes. Well worth having.
The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin author of Mao’s Last Dancer is a condensed picture book version of his chapter book. The Peasant Prince is bright and attractive and the text describes his childhood in a very poor village and the moment he was selected for the ballet.
Tikki-Tikki-Tembo- Arlene Mosel is a classic
Chinese legend telling the story of a boy who nearly drowns in a well because his brother cannot pronounce his very, very long name fast enough for an old man to save him. This is the legend of why Chinese now have very short names. The drawings illustrate rural China. My children just loved the name and rolled it off their tongues for days after and copied it and stuck various size papers around the house with Tikki Tikki on it.
Bawshou Rescues The Sun – Chun-Chan Yeh and Alan Baillie is a folktale of a peasant who goes in search of the Sun which has been ‘stolen’. He dies in his quest and his son in his turn fulfills the quest.
The Jade Stone – Caryn Yacowitz tells the story of when Great Emperor of All China commands a stonecarver to carve a Dragon of Wind and Fire in a piece of perfect jade, but the carver, Chan Lo discovers the stone wants to be something else and risks the ire (and his life) of the Emperor to carve what the stone wants.
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack is so captivating and appealing.The hero is a spirited little duck who lives on a boat in the Yangtze River. His adventure is told with a rhythm that is catching. A timeless classic.
The Moon Lady – Amy Tan. Ying-Ying, the grandmother of three liitle girls, tells a tale from long ago. On the night of the Moon Festival, when Ying-ying was a little girl, she encountered the Moon Lady, who grants the secret wishes of those who ask, and learned from her that the best wishes are those you can make come true yourself. Bright illustrations.
Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like by Jay Williams is a fascinating story. A Chinese Town on the border is in danger from approaching marauders. They need saving but when a ‘fat little old man’ arrives claiming he is a dragon no-one listens except for a poor orphan boy who offers him hospitality. For the child’s sake the Dragon saves the Town. Great story.
The Five Chinese Brothers- Claire Hutchet Bishop is a folktale of five brothers who have different talents and how they use these talents to outwit the executioner. Simple and appealing.
Chapter Books for the over 11s:
Chu Ju’s House – Gloria Whelan. When a girl is born to Chu Ju’s family, it is quickly determined that the baby must be sent away. After all, the law states that a family may have only two children, and tradition dictates that every family should have a boy. To make room for one, this girl will have to go. Fourteen-year-old Chu Ju knows she cannot allow this to happen to her sister. Understanding that one girl must leave, she sets out in the middle of the night, on a remarkable journey to find a home of her own.
Mao’s Last Dancer – Li Cunxin. The memoirs of the author who is chosen from a farm commune to train in Beijing as a ballet dancer. Under a grueling regime of exercise he achieves international success and defects to the West. We read the edition adapted for younger readers.
China Coin- Allan Baillie. A story set in modern China. Leah and her mother visit China to search for long-lost relatives, their search for an ancient coin that has been in the family for generations leads them to experience Chinese life in the provinces under Deng;s rule. The book culminates in the Tienanmen Square massacre. To be really honest Allan Baillie is not an exceptional author and the daughter Leah had an attitude that grated, but the book was good for its portrayal of Chinese life.
Red Scarf Girl – Ji-Li Jiang. In 1966 Ji-Li Jiang turned 12. An outstanding student and leader, she had everything – brains, the admiration of her peers, and a bright future in China’s Communist Party. But that year Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution, and everything changed. Intelligence suddenly became a crime, and having wealthy ancestors meant persecution – or worse. Over the next few years, Ji-Li and her family were humiliated and scorned, and lied in constant terror of arrest. Finally, with the detention of her father, Ji-Li was faced with the most difficult choice of her life. She could denounce her father and break with her family, or she could refuse to testify and sacrifice her future in her beloved Communist Party.
Ties that Bind, Ties that Break – Lensey Namioka. In China in 1911, all girls of good families had their feet bound. Young Ailin, Third Sister in the Tao family, having witnessed her two older sisters suffering this tortuous practice, refuses to follow the ancient tradition. As a result the family of her intended husband breaks their marriage agreement and Ailin finds that her own family, shamed by her decision, will no longer support her. When her father dies, her cruel uncle says she must earn her keep either as a concubine or as a nun. But Ailin has an indomitable spirit and bold convictions and is determined to forge her own destiny.
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