At first glance, this book looks indecipherable—but look closer!
This puzzle book opens with a mission and a clue: it invites readers to investigate pages of what looks like Chinese calligraphy, paired with lushly painted illustrations, to crack a secret code. Would-be codebreakers learn that the first 12 spreads are classic American folk songs (“Maybe you know them from campfire or school bus sing-alongs”), and the remaining five codes are English-language translations of classic Chinese folk songs. This mission may best be enjoyed intergenerationally with a participant who has some American cultural knowledge, as the songs will likely vary in familiarity for younger readers. Having cracked the code, readers of all ages will revel in the thrill of triumph, poring over each rich spread and going on to learn the lyrics of the songs they don’t already know, both American and Chinese. Indeed, the experience would be even more satisfying with music to accompany the text, so families may find themselves seeking it out. Stadtlander’s vibrantly textured scenes perfectly capture the nostalgia of the songs, and they smoothly transition from the West to the East. A guide to the code and an answer key complete the experience.
Wow! This cross-cultural cipher is a feast for the eyes and a challenge for the mind. (Picture book. 8-adult)