Age Range: 5 - 9
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Using clunky declarative sentences, Guillot tries to convey a sense of life in modern China, mediated through its history, with this story of a young girl, Li, and her encounter with a pre-Mao ghost. Although Li’s mother works in a gongchang, she also makes lifu on the side for a little extra kuai (Guillot exasperatingly shovels these words into the text; the meanings are not always clear from the context, and whistling back and forth between the text and glossary shatters the flow of the story). Li is asked to take a special lifu (formal dress) to a client in Shanghai. While on the way by bike, Li daydreams her way into a crash with another cyclist. Lying, near death, on the roadway, Li is visited by her ghost, who saves her so she may deliver a message to his family. It transpires that the ghost was a union man in 1920s Shanghai who was rubbed out by gangsters who worked for the dockyard owners. Thus elements of Chinese history (fleshed out in an author’s note) are laced into the story, as are ethics, such as the justice Li brings to the ghost’s family by delivering the message, and the virtue and propriety of her act. The story has promise, not least for its fine artwork that provides a glimpse into daily life, but the delivery is so stilted, its effectiveness is cut by half. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8109-4129-5
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Abrams
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1999