A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy Birthday Diane Stanley (Leonardo da Vinci, Bella at Midnight).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Ingri Parin Dâ€™Aulaire (1904â€“1980) Abraham Lincoln, Dâ€™ Aulairesâ€™ Book of Norse Myths.
- In 1831, Charles Darwin embarked on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he began to formulate the theory of evolution. Read Charles Darwin and the Beagle Adventure by A.J. Wood and Clint Twist, The True Adventures of Charlie Darwin by Carolyn Meyer and The Tree of Life by Peter Sis.
- Happy birthday to New York Cityâ€™s Radio City Music Hall, which opened in 1932.
For our last selection for Read a New Book Month, Iâ€™d like to look at one of the most original graphic novels to appear this year, Na Liu and AndrĂ©s Vera MartĂnezâ€™s Little White Duck. When books for American children focus on other parts of the world, they tend to be in line with accepted American political thinking. But told as a series of short stories, Little White Duck stands apart from that trend presenting a positive portrait of Maoist China.
Na Liu was born in 1973 near the Yangtze River. She begins Little White Duck by explaining her name and her nickname, Qin or Piano. She continues by relating her memory of visiting the Yellow Crane Tower every spring and her fantasy of flying over the city on the back of a crane. Almost every child has flying dreams, but this version, showing a graceful crane, presents that dream in a different cultural context.
But there are tensions in Qinâ€™s life. Right before a new law was passed allowing only one child per family, Qinâ€™s parents had a second daughter. That means only one of them can go to school. So Qinâ€™s younger sister attends school, while Qin goes to class with her mother, a teacher. But Little White Duck is hardly a dull lesson in politics. Instead readers experience, from Quinâ€™s perspective, the sad day when Mao died. And they hear stories about her daily life, like the four pests that the children help eradicate. A splendid New Year celebration and feast round out Qinâ€™s narrative. During the book Qin presents a positive message about how the Maoist government made her father and motherâ€™s education possible; and she looks with distaste on the old China, where people have not embraced the new Communist thinking. The final story, â€śLittle White Duck,â€ť explores the issues of the haves/have nots in a Communist society. In the end, Qin emerges as a very real child, one worth learning about and appreciating no matter how different her experiences may be.
Both exotic and daring, the book takes readers to another place, time, and culture radically different from our own, and yet one presented with dignity and respect. Because the story appears as a graphic novel, it seems much less a polemic than it would if it were presented as a straight text. The art brings Qin and her family to life, making them something other than a poster family for Communist China. Little White Duck makes a great place to begin learning and thinking about the differences between Chinese and American cultures. If a student needs to read an autobiography for school, it provides one in an alternate format.
Hereâ€™s a page from Little White Duck:
Originally posted December 27, 2012. Updated for .