Kirkus Reviews QR Code


True Stories of 1920s China

by Elizabeth Quan ; illustrated by Elizabeth Quan

Pub Date: March 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-77049-383-4
Publisher: Tundra Books

Anecdotal paintings and reminiscences of two childhood years spent in China, by an artist now in her 90s.

Following up Once Upon a Full Moon (2007), an account of her family’s journey from Canada to Kwangtung province, Quan recalls 17 experiences or incidents during the stay. These include feasting on New Year’s Day (“Mama steamed a whole chicken inside a winter melon and made sweet red and green bean paste…”), gathering to watch a teen relative take a bucket shower (“We all laughed with glee”), and welcoming both a new piglet and, later, a new baby brother. Opposite each memory, a full-page, loosely brushed watercolor in a naïve style adds both cultural and comical notes with depictions of small, active or intent figures in village dress and settings. It’s a sunny picture, but there are references to the real dangers of pirates and brigands, as well as a comment about the author’s beloved Popo (grandmother) walking to church on bound feet. These, along with a final parting made particularly poignant since the baby, being foreign-born, had to be left in China for several years, keep it from becoming a sugary nostalgiafest.

A fragmentary memoir, but warm, humorous and engaging overall.

(afterword, with photo of Popo) (Illustrated memoir. 6-9)