Ji-Li Jiang, Author
Greg Ruth, Illustrator
Disney Hyperion Books, fiction, 2013
Suitable for Ages: 5-8
Themes: Father/son relationship, Kites, Separation, Hope, Chinese Cultural Revolution, Multicultural
Opening: “I love to fly kites. But not from the ground. My city is crowded, and the streets are skinny. Baba and I fly our kites from the tippy-top of our triangle roof. We are above but still under, neither here nor there. We are free, like the kites.”
Synopsis: When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, are separated during China’s Cultural Revolution, Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Baba is able to visit Tai Shan every Sunday, but they stay close by greeting each other every day with flying kites. It is their secret way of communicating their love for one another and ease the separation. One day Tai Shan isn’t able to see Baba’s kite in the sky and worries if he will ever see his father again.
Why I like this book: Ji-Li Jiang has written a beautiful poetic story about a father/son relationship that endures under the most difficult time in China’s history. Greg Ruth’s double-page spreads are done in ink and watercolors. They are large, evocative and a feast for the eyes. It is a compelling story that teaches children about the Chinese culture and a little history at the same time.
Resources; There is an author’s note at the end that talks about the author’s relationship to the story and the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976. The author was born in Shanghai and spent many years dealing with her childhood memories of surviving the Cultural Revolution. Visit Ji-li Jiang’s website to learn more about using this book in the classroom. She has a video presentation that can be downloaded. Talk about separation with kids and ask them what they would do to stay in touch with a parent.