Tag Archive | China

In the sky, in the air, I AM SMOKE, by Henry Herz and Mercè López (Picturebook review)

book cover of I Am Smoke, by Henry Herz; illustrated by Mercè López. Tilbury House Publishers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Rising from flames,
Controlled or untamed –
we see and smell smoke.

This picturebook ably shows the many ways that people use smoke: to preserve foods, to banish pests, in religious ceremonies, for healing.

Interestingly, smoke narrates its own story, saying “I lack a mouth, but I can speak” as it reminds us that smoke signals were used in China as well as by Native Americans of the Plains and Southwest.

Smoke explains that it is part of a cycle – it adds its water vapor to rain, its carbon dioxide nourishes leaves that can transform smoke into wood, which someday may again become smoke.

For the earth-toned artwork, the artist held paper over smoky candles, then added details with watercolors and digital enhancements – another way to use smoke!

Fascinating back notes tell more about each page-spread’s short, lyrical text.

What is your happiest memory of smoke?

Book info: I Am Smoke / Henry Herz; illustrated by Merce Lopez. Tilbury House Publishers, 2021. [author site] [illustrator site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

R is for romance, fake – but THIS TIME IT’S REAL! by Ann Liang (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of This Time It's Real, by  Ann Liang. Published by Scholastic Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Another year, another school,
another place to not fit in –
just keep writing…

Little sister is adapting fine to their new school, but moving back to China after many years away for Mom’s consulting career is really tough for high school senior Eliza – just keep writing…

When her adorably perfect boyfriend must exit the shadows “protecting his privacy” so social media readers can have more of their romantic interludes, Eliza is aghast.

No way that will happen since the 17 year old invented him for her school blog entry!

That writing opened the door to a prestigious online magazine’s internship, so somehow she’s got to make him really real, have cute adventures in Beijing together, snap some filtered photos, and keep the story going during their senior year.

Desperate, she pleads with Caz Song at school – if the popular model/actor will step in as her dream sweetheart, she’ll help him write the college application essays demanded by his over-busy parents.

How will they pull it off without endangering Caz’s contract obligations?
Can she convince their classmates and her best friend Zoe back in California that it’s a real relationship?
Is Mr. Perfect movie star actually a little lonely?

This adventure/relationship might not follow her outline or his script! Counting down to their big television interview…

How would you write your own happily-ever-after?

Book info: This Time It’s Real / Ann Liang. Scholastic, 2023. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Historical tales with Chinese roots – read with your ears this week! (audiobooks)

Time to download this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC so you can read with your ears!

Remember that although these complete audiobooks are only available from Thursday through Wednesday, you have free use of them on your device as long as you keep them on Sora shelf – more info here.

CD cover of audiobook Descendant of the Crane, by Joan He. Read by Nancy Wu, published by Dreamscape | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Descendant of the Crane (download free – May 13-19, 2021)
by Joan He | Read by Nancy Wu
Published by Dreamscape

Suddenly ascending to the throne when her father dies, Princess Hesina’s search for his murderer puts the young woman in contact with her soon-to-be subjects outside the palace walls.

Is the soothsayer’s forbidden magic telling the truth? Will the secrets of investigator Akira endanger them both?

CD cover of audiobook Monkey, by Wu Ch'eng-en, translated by Arthur Waley. Read by Kenneth Williams | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Monkey (download free May 13-19, 2021)
by Wu Ch’êng-ên, Arthur Waley [Trans.] | Read by Kenneth Williams
Published by Naxos Audiobooks

This 16th century Chinese classic includes demons, gods, and spirits who stand in the way of a priest traveling West to acquire sacred Buddhist texts for his emperor.

Su Wukong, the Monkey King himself, accompanies the priest on his long journey in this abridged version translated into English in 1942 and recently recorded.

What tales reflecting China are your favorites?

Making friends or Papa’s best cakes – PIE IN THE SKY dreams? by Remy Lai (book review)

book cover of Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai. Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Everything is different,
no one understands –
moving to a new country is so hard!

Jingwen feels like like an alien when Mom moves him and little brother to Australia, especially when Yanghao picks up English so much faster than he can. Or maybe a ghost, since his classmates hardly include him in anything because he’s so quiet.

Only remembering Papa’s special cakes makes him happy (and sad), so he decides to bake each one, just as Papa taught him back in the family bakery after all the plain, inexpensive ones were done.

Why did Mama decide to emigrate, even after Papa died?
Why can’t Jingwen understand English better? Why?
Will he be held back at school to be in little brother’s class next year!?

Illustrated middle grade novel with so much heart! (and fantastically yummy descriptions of Papa’s cakes)

How can we understand others when words don’t connect us?

Book info: Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai. Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

X marks pivotal 1968: TODAY’S AUTHORS EXPLORE A YEAR OF REBELLION, REVOLUTION & CHANGE, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti (YA book review)

book cover of 1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution & Change / edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Assassinations – dreams denied.
Protests and retaliation – hope swings forward, then back.
War in our living rooms – who can look away?

This collection of non-fiction essays and memoirs by stellar YA and middle grade authors does go chronologically through 1968, but is vivid and nuanced and anguished – no dry parade of factoids on a timeline!

In “The Death of the Dream,” Kekla Magoon recounts the assasinations of Dr. King and RFK, while Laban Carrick Hill remembers those same days as a young child in a very racist Southern family “On the Wrong Side of History.”

What do you know about the 1968 student riots in Paris and Mexico City?
– the small freedoms gained in Czechoslovakia during “Prague Spring” before the USSR Communist leaders cracked down?
– the protests against Columbia University’s attempt to build a gym by razing a black neighborhood?
– the Red Guard in China during the Cultural Revolution?

Police brutality against protesters in Chicago was viewed by 90 million people on live television in 1968, research on genetics and computing raced forward in laboratories, while the Olympics and Presidential election and space race dominated the headlines.

The authors relay their personal connection or outlook to the event they chronicle, with each quarter of the year headed by Elizabeth Partridge’s recap of the Nightly News including Vietnam war fatalities – military and civilian – night after night after night.

Be sure to read the contributors’ biographies at the end: Jennifer Anthony, Marc Aronson, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Loree Griffin Burns, Omar Figueroas, Paul Fleischman, Laban Carrick Hill, Mark Kurlansky, Lenore Look, David Lubar, Kate MacMillan, Kekla Magoon, Jim Murphy, Elizabeth Partridge.

Get it today at your favorite indie bookstore for Independent Bookstore Day!

What historic moment during your lifetime would you write about?

Book info: 1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution & Change / edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Candlewick Press, 2018. [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

X on the map, any map for Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig (book review)

book cover of The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig published by Greenwillow | recommended on BooksYALove.comTime traveling,
On a pirate ship,
If there’s a map, she can go there!

Just imagine a Gifted young woman navigating the Temptation and her interesting crew to any port present or past, nations long-swallowed by history, mythic lands – all so that her father the captain can find a way to undo her mother’s death… and perhaps undo Nix herself!

I listened to Heidi speak on a debut YA authors’ panel last week at TxLA, and she was just as funny in person as in this offbeat author interview video.

Sail into your local library or independent bookstore for the February 2016-published first adventure in this two-part sea saga (Heidi is indeed working on the second book now, she assured us!).

If you could travel to any place at any time, where would you come ashore?

Book info: The Girl From Everywhere / Heidi Heilig. Greenwillow Books, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [video author interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As her father seeks to undo her mother’s death, 16 year old half-Chinese Nix guides their time-traveling pirate ship to ports real and imagined, encountering mythic creatures and real robber barons, wondering if his quest will undo her as well.

She can guide the Temptation to any port on any map, fictional or factual, so onward goes the ship, seeking every possible cure that could keep Nix’s mother from dying in childbirth – if Slate could only find the map for the exact 1886 Honolulu where they lived.

A crowded 1774 Calcutta market where just-a-friend Kashmir rescues her, sugar barons who want to depose the king of Hawaii, today’s Coast Guard with questions for the grand wooden sailing ship in New York harbor – Nix, Slate, Kash, Rotgut, Bee and her ghost-wife Ayen travel through time and oceans on the captain’s quest.

If her mother survives childbirth in her timeline, what happens to Nix?
Is there room for love when a pirate ship can’t put down roots?
What treacherous waters must Nix cross to fulfill her own dreams?

First of a two-part adventure that spans time, tides, and every human emotion, The Girl From Everywhere wants to remain in existence, despite her father’s longing to undo her past. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Girl in Reverse, by Barbara Stuber (book review) – adopted, bullied, seeking, found?

book cover of Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber published by Margaret K McElderry BooksPrejudice at school,
polite silence at home,
Who am i? Who am I?

Shunned by the in-crowd, bullied as if she were a Commie spy, Lily would just like a few friends who don’t care that she’s Chinese, some answers about her past from her adoptive parents, and a door lock that can keep pesky little brother out of her room!

A box of Chinese sculptures, a new exhibit at the art museum, and a nun nearing retirement change Lily’s priorities – can she finally learn more about her birth mother?

Girl in Reverse was published as a paperback just this week and is available in hardcover and ebook, so choose your favorite way to hold this well-told tale in your hands, as Lily held the objects that connected her with Gone Mom.

What keepsake tells a family story for you?

Book info: Girl in Reverse / Barbara Stuber. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014 (paperback, May 2015).  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The new Chinese art exhibit may hold clues about Lily’s long-gone birth mother and is a welcome distraction from the bullying she experiences at her Kansas City high school during the Korean War.

Shortly after Lily’s adoption, Ralph was born to her new parents, who cannot understand the prejudice that Lily faces daily, labeled a ‘Commie’ as the war in Korea rages, even though she is Chinese.

Ralph finds a box in the attic, left with Lily at the orphanage by her gone-mom, and together the siblings decide to find out all they can.  Trips to Chinatown, the old orphanage, and the art museum bring more clues, as artistic Elliot tries to get Lily to embrace her heritage.

Where did Gone Mom go?
Why did she leave Lily behind?
Why was Lily’s mom in Missouri anyway?

Searching for her identity in 1950s American heartland, Lily discovers which bonds of family and culture can bend and which are too fragile to even breathe upon.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine (book review) – ghost in the machine?

book cover Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine published by Margaret McElderry BooksAltar offerings to the Ghost are mere superstition,
surely we can free ourselves without its aid…

Wen never thought she could find love within the horrific factory complex where her educated father is compelled to run a clinic, but now her heart is torn between two who demand her loyalty and affection.

This adventure-romance set in an alternative perhaps-China echoes themes found in Phantom of the Opera with a steampunk twist and will be followed by Of Dreams and Rust in August 2015.

Would you trust your very life to a whispered promise?

Book info: Of Metal and Wishes / Sarah Fine. Margaret McElderry Books, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: In the slaughterhouse, Wen and her father fight ever-present death at his medical clinic, but an omnipresent ghost bent on revenge may tip the scales forever.

Migrant workers in the slaughterhouse’s guts, machinists in its metalwork shops, her own educated father – no one can get out of debt to the company, yet the 16 year old tries to find a way, not relying on the gossips’ claim of a ‘ghost’ in the factory who grants wishes.

When her murmured plea for an offensive worker to leave her alone results in a terrible accident, Wen realizes that there is something or someone with eyes and ears everywhere in the factory. When she begins helping the migrant workers whose underground leader Melik talks of overthrowing the bosses, the Ghost’s whispered promises to keep her safe from all harm become shackles instead of security.

Accidents, secrets, revenge, family history – as the factory becomes an ever more dangerous place in this possible China, Wen must decide whether to trust the Ghost or trust Melik – but can she trust her own heart? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang (book reviews) – two views of war, graphic novel style

book cover of Boxers by Gene Luen Yang published by First Second Booksbook cover of Saints by Gene Luen Yang published by First Second BooksChina at war with itself in 1900,
tradition versus new beliefs,
cultural identity versus change.

We may have heard of the Boxer Rebellion or Uprising because of its unusual name (and inevitable juvenile snickers about the word ‘boxer’), but didn’t realize that Western countries were eyeing China for conquest and colonialism in the late 1800s.

Now this pair of  well-scripted and evocatively drawn graphic novels examines the larger conflict from the viewpoints of two individuals whose paths cross once (or was it twice?), neither of whom can realistically expect to win the fight of their lives.

Yang uses a muted palette for the drabness of village life, reserving strong colors for battles when Bao and his disciple-brothers and sisters transform into all-powerful Chinese gods and for Joan of Arc’s appearances to Vibiana. The boxed set of both books is gorgeous; check out the spine art’s continuation of the cover sequence.

When is it too late to change your beliefs? When is it too soon to stand your ground, despite the odds?

p.s. I wrote and scheduled this post before the National Book Awards‘ long-list was announced on 16 September – congratulations, Gene!

Book info: Boxers / story and art by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien. FirstSecond Books, 2013.   Saints / story and art by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien. FirstSecond Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site – Boxers]  [publisher site –  Saints]  [book trailer for both books]   Review copies and cover images courtesy of the publisher.

My book talks:    BOXERS – Foreign powers want to take China’s wealth in 1900, but patriotic men (and women) will use fists, swords, and fire to reunite their country.

This graphic novel of the Boxer Rebellion traces the roots of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, a people-led army rising from impoverished villages, dedicated to getting justice for the wrongs committed by foreign devils, including Christian missionaries and Chinese converts.

Youngest brother Bao becomes strong and mighty through the Society’s practices, eventually leading them against foreign and imperial troops at Peking. When he allows the Red Lantern maiden warriors to join the cause and fight alongside men, some Brother-Disciples question his motives, though not the women’s killing skill.

Practicing martial arts and stern rituals, Brother-Disciples of the Fist feel themselves transformed into gods of Chinese legend as they fought to wrest the capital city from the ’round eyed’ foreigners uncontrolled by weak emperor Ching.

Yet time doesn’t stand still for gods or empires or young men who are visited in their dreams – the Boxer Rebellion ends just as this book portrays it.

Yang’s companion book, Saints, shows this historic conflict from the viewpoint of a Chinese convert to Christianity who escapes her abusive family to watch history unfold.

SAINTS – The God preached by foreign missionaries might rescue an unwanted daughter in 1900 even as a peasant army marches to kill all the foreign devils who want to drain China of its wealth and debase its heritage.

Four-Girl, born on the most inauspicious day of the year, doesn’t even merit a name as her grandfather blames her for the untimely death of her father. A devil, he calls her, and nothing she does is right. To fight back, she begins secretly learning about Christianity, since its missionaries are known as ‘foreign devils’ to everyone.

Escaping from abuse at home, Four-Girl receives the saint-name Vibiana when she is baptized and travels with the foreign priest to a town with its own church. Away from its orphanage, she sees visions of a slim girl in bright metal armor – the priest says her name is Joan of Arc, a champion of her Church and her country.

Now Vibiana knows she is being called to save someone, even in the face of the Righteous Fist army killing Christians and foreigners wherever they go as the Boxer Uprising begins.

Be sure to read Yang’s companion book, Boxers, to see how a peasant army tries to push out the foreign devils and their converts to reunite the China they love.  (Two of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, by L. Tam Holland (book review) – family secrets, lies & love?

book cover of Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L Tam Holland published by Simon SchusterHalf-Chinese, half-Texan,
Parents won’t discuss family,
Who is Vee? He’s not sure.

Yep, one of those “write about your family history” assignments which make adoptees, foster kids, and those with fractured families cringe, and Vee decides that writing fiction is better than flunking for writing nothing.

I traveled in China a few years ago, so I can mentally see and smell and hear the inauspicious family trip that Vee, his Texan mom, his Chinese dad, and his best friend-girl take to Dad’s hometown searching for Grandfather Wong.

Grab this basketball-loving, dysfunctional family times two, coming-of-age tale today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore.

When it comes to skeletons rattling the family tree, should you ignore, hide, or celebrate them?

Book info: The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong / L. Tam Holland. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Basketball, girls, and sad irony – life for Vee was okay. Inventing his family history for a school paper turns things upside down, and his Chinese dad and Texan mom may not see the humor in it, especially when they all go to China on a wild grandfather chase.

Yes, they gave him a name that couldn’t be mistaken for Chinese. No, Dad and Mom will never talk about their parents, ever. Yes, Vee loves basketball more than anything, but passion doesn’t equal talent. No, he is not going to fail honors history merely because he has no known family history to write about!

Getting cut from JV team is awful, but being named manager of the girls’ varsity team could be alright. It’s odd being around Adele outside history class where she hangs out (Mr. Riley helped her out of a tough spot once, she says) – maybe Vee is misreading the extra attention she pays him, or maybe not.

Vee’s best friend Madison’s Chinese is much better than his, so she helps him “reinvent” family information for the history paper and writes a letter to his dad as if from his long-estranged grandfather in China. This extra-credit detail sends the Crawford-Wongs (plus Madison) to Dad’s home village in search of family healing, and what a strange trip their journey becomes!

What if they really find Grandfather? What if they don’t?
What caused Mom’s parents to cut off communication?
What does senior Adele see in Vee (or is he imagining things)?

Complicated family history plus misunderstandings at school (on and off the court) might make Vee wish he’d never written that paper or might let him finally discover who he is, at last.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)