THE GHOST OF SHANGHAI

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. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8109-4129-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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THE COLORS OF US

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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TASTY BABY BELLY BUTTONS

PLB 0-679-99369-X Inspired by local versions of a popular Japanese folktale, Sierra (Antarctic Antics, 1998, etc.) recasts a yarn that usually stars Momotaro, or “Peach Boy,” with a female lead. When giant, ogre-like oni take away all the village’s babies to make snacks of their tasty navels, little Uriko-hime is left behind; she was born from a melon, and so has no belly button. Gathering up a small band of animal companions along the way, Uriko tricks the monsters into walloping themselves with clubs, and rescues the children, leaving delicious millet dumplings behind in consolation. Clad in a flowing, watermelon-colored kimono, Uriko makes a doughty heroine, equally skilled in cookery and swordplay; So’s art has a traditional look, with theatrically gesturing figures, busy crowd scenes, and energetic brushwork. A vigorously told comic adventure. (Picture book/folklore. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-89369-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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