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by Susan L. Roth & illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7922-7723-6
Publisher: National Geographic

Roth (My Love for You, 1996, etc.) honors the memory of her Chinese uncle through her story, which is partially based on her uncle's immigrant experiences and his talents as a poet and calligrapher. Mr. Kang celebrates his 70th birthday by announcing he will retire after 50 years as a cook in a Chinese restaurant. He wants to read the New York Times every day, paint poems in Chinese calligraphy, and keep a special kind of Chinese bird, a hua mei, in a cage that he can take to the park like the other retired Chinese men in his neighborhood in Brooklyn. Mr. Kang's seven-year-old grandson, Sam, objects to keeping a bird caged, but when the bird is given the chance to go free, it returns to Mr. Kang's apartment and its cage. This lovely, quiet story has a satisfying conclusion as Mr. Kang paints a poem, Sam paints a picture, and the bird paints a little picture of its own with delicate footprints. Roth's elegant collage illustrations are a delight to peruse, incorporating paper-cut figures, rice papers, brocades, feathers, newspaper scraps, and photographs to create a dynamic flow of art. Text is place carefully within its own frame on top of one side of each exquisitely crafted two-page spread. An author's note offers more details about the Chinese tradition of retired men keeping caged birds as pets as well as details about her collage materials. For its art, for its celebration of a venerable grandfather, and for a special look at a unique custom, this is a story to be treasured. (Picture book. 5-8)