LEAVING CHINA by James McMullan


An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood
by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 12 - 16
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Internationally acclaimed illustrator McMullan (I’m Fast, 2012), best known for Lincoln Center Theater posters and picture books with his wife, reflects on his childhood in China and wartime journeys in search of home.

Young McMullan, a nervous boy and grandson of missionaries, is born in Cheefoo, China, in 1934. He enjoys a comfortable lifestyle due to the family businesses, including an orphanage and embroidery exports. Soon, World War II dawns, and the Japanese army invades the town, causing the boy and his parents to flee to Shanghai. There, his father joins the British army, while he and his mother set sail for America. In two-page spreads, prose on the left opposite illustrations on the right, memories are recalled with vivid clarity and a quiet strength. The author’s subdued but elegant drawings set the most reverent tones. Tender scenes, such as the author playing next to a rectangle of sunlight while his father bends over the piano or his fascinated examination of brush strokes on Chinese scrolls, illustrate how little moments really do have the greatest impact. Painful and terrifying recollections take shape, as well: his failure to become a “strong little fellow” in his father’s eyes, a bomb scare aboard a passenger freighter or his ineptitude at boxing. These experiences, both extraordinary and ordinary, intertwine to create a memoir that resonates. (Finished, full-color art not seen.)

A poignant glimpse into an artist in the making. (Memoir. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61620-255-2
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2014


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