MEI FUH by Edith Schaeffer


Memoirs from China
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 8 - 11
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Writing in the third person, Schaeffer recalls, and perhaps embroiders, incidents from her early childhood in China, and her move to the US in 1920. The daughter of American teachers, little Mei Fuh knows a world bounded by the walls of the European compound in Wenchow (now Wengzhou), although her Chinese amah (nanny) and the gatekeeper, Adjipah, occasionally allow her a glimpse outside. Realistically for a five-year-old, playtime, exotic sights, and childhood traumas blend together, so that the pleasure of watching her goldfish is only briefly dimmed by its sudden loss (while the child was away, Adjipah cooked and ate the fish), and the agony of spilling boiling water on her legs is forgotten in the joy of caring for a box of silkworms, then wearing the resultant dress. On the other hand, some of the amah’s casual comments, e.g., about “newborn baby girls that have been thrown away,” however true to their time, will be invidious to many readers; the episodic nature of Mei Fuh’s experiences makes for a disjointed narrative, although there is compensation in some of the charmingly childlike details Schaeffer provides (treating them as fiction, and without noting where truth and invention diverge). The cheerful, expressively posed figures in Liu’s delicate black-and-white pen drawings evoke an innocent exuberance that will draw both adults and children to this volume, but they may find a more sensitive view of a similar childhood in Jean Fritz’s Homesick (1982). (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-395-72290-X
Page count: 90pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998