Sunday, December 30, 2012

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez

Da Qin and her little sister are growing up in China during a time of change.  Chairman Mao has just died, leading to the country opening slightly to the Western world.  La Liu remembers moments that made an impact on her life.

This is a memoir, but it does not tell the story of Na Liu's entire life.  Rather it is a series of short stories, small moments from her childhood.  While we don't learn all about Na Liu's life, we are given a clear glimpse into the life of a child in China growing up after the death of Mao.

The first story Na Liu tells is going to the funeral of Chairman Mao, and recalling how incredibly sad her parents were.  Both of Na Liu's parent's were able to make advances for themselves because of the government - her mother had polio as a child and the government paid for her care, Na Liu's father came from a farming family, but was able to pursue an education because of a government sponsorship.  It was nice to hear these stories where Communism worked the way it was intended to work.

Another story is about Na Liu and her sister learning why they must eat all their food - the starving children in China.  Na Liu's family was not wanting for food, but later, when she visits her father's family she horrified to see how other people live.

I thought Little White Duck did a good job of illustrating what was going on in China during this time.  There were struggling peasants, and there were those who only wanted to be good citizens.  Na Liu and her sister try to make sense of it all through their child's understanding, and it's hard.

The art was beautiful.  It was done in very muted colors.  There were really nice bright spots, even the red was dark.  Lots of grays and blue-greens and browns.  It reflected the military like feeling of the world Na Liu is growing up in.  There is order and everyone does their part, no one steps out of line.  The panels were also orderly and regular.  At the beginning and end of the book, there were lovely double-paged spreads of Na Liu and her sister flying over China on a crane.

A great middle-grade book for explaining about children growing up in different parts of the world and during different time periods.

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