Tuesday, July 29, 2014
A Graphic-Novelish Memoir About Growing up in China
Liu, Na; Martinez, Andres Vera (2012) Little White Duck: A Childhood in China Minneapolis: Graphic Universe
On the one hand, I don't suppose that No Liu's childhood, growing up in China, was that much different from any other Chinese child's life at that time. She remembers waking up on the day that Chairman Mao died and how there was no school and they spent most of the day at a memorial rally. She remembers finding a recently hatched batch of chicks behind her neighbor's house and wanting to save them like the People's selfless hero Lei Feng -- so she and her sister made sure the chicks had enough water to drink on that hot day by forcing them to drink water one by one (and inadvertently killed them all in the process). She remembers celebrating New Years, travelling to the village of her father's birth (and encountering some anti-city prejudice).
And yet, on the other hand, what makes this graphic novel memoir so amazing is the interaction of the words and the beautiful images. The beginning of the book features a breathtaking illustration of Na Liu's recurring dream where she and her sister would ride a giant crane over the rooftops of the city. During a rather pedestrian description of the New Year's celebration , a cut-away illustration lets us see the layout of a typical home. And throughout the book, little Liu and her sister are drawn in such a way that he reader becomes quickly attached to them. It is a wonderful way to give kids a glimpse into life in another country (with some history and geography subtly thrown in for good measure.
This book might be especially helpful for teaching visually-oriented ELL students who might find some common ground with Na Liu. Little White Duck would be good for strong third-grade readers and up through middle school at least (I think any high school history classes studying China could benefit from it too.