Chinese New Year brings a young family joyously but all-too-briefly back together in this poignant import.
Little Maomao knows only that her father “builds big houses in faraway places” and comes home just for New Year. Though she hardly recognizes the shaggy figure at the door, by the time he’s given her and her mother gifts, gotten a haircut and a shave and made sticky rice balls (one with a lucky coin in the middle just for her) they’re an inseparable pair—repairing the windows and roof together and watching dragon dancers march past. The next day brings a round of play with friends in the snow, and the day after that Daddy packs up his rolling suitcase to leave again. In Zhu’s paintings Maomao looks a bit too young for lines like “Excellent! Mama never allows me up [on the roof] alone!” but simple patterns and bright red highlights give the inside and outside settings a particularly inviting look, and the artist captures the emotional backdrop with delicate clarity in her figures’ postures and expressions.
Sensitive, restrained—but festive too…with a closing note that China has over 100 million migrant workers, many separated from their families except during the holiday. (Picture book. 6-8)