A little girl in Shanghai outwits a Lunar New Year monster.
Xingling is grocery shopping with her grandmother days before the Chinese New Year festivities are to begin. Curious about all the red decorations, she learns that once upon a time there was a very hungry monster who threatened villages. The monster, fortunately, had three fears—“loud sounds, fire, and the color red”—and the Chinese learned how to keep safe from it. Unfortunately, the monster, named Nian, soon appears in Shanghai very hungry and very unperturbed by ancient customs. Xingling cleverly finds three new, traditional means to defeat Nian: a bowl containing “the longest noodle in China” (which sends him snoozing), bony milkfish (which hurts his throat), and a rice cake made with very sticky rice (which glues his jaws together). Wang brings together traditional storytelling elements in her tale—three tasks and repetition of phrases—in this contemporary setting of a Chinese New Year story. However, the writing is pedestrian and will not hold up to multiple readings. The explanation that “nian” means either “year” or “sticky” comes only in the author’s note. Chau’s artwork is colorful but very busy; Xingling is drawn with giant, manga-style eyes, though the other Chinese characters have simple ink-dot eyes. Also, there is no mention of which year of the 12-year cycle is being celebrated.
Ai ya—not the happiest New Year tale. (Picture book. 4-7)