Leo's second-grade class started their unit on Imperial China with a parade through the halls of their school this afternoon. It was terrific (and terrifically loud): drums beating, accordion-pleated paper dragons waving, kids shouting "Gung Hay Fat Choy!" They'll be studying China for the next six weeks (so you can expect some Chinese content here at books together).
At home, we had dumplings for dinner and read Long-Long's New Year: A Story about the Chinese Spring Festival by Catherine Gower; illustrated by He Zhihong (Tuttle, 2005). I like that this book is set in (rural, contemporary) China; it's a nice complement to the many books about Lunar New Year celebrations that focus on Asian-American families and communities. Author Catherine Gower lived and worked in China for two years; and illustrator He Zhihong was born in China and studied traditional Chinese painting there. Both story and art are authentic in their cultural--and emotional--details.
The story: Long-Long and his grandfather set off on a bicycle cart loaded with cabbages to sell at the town market. We see Long-Long helping out at the bicycle repair shop; meeting the cook at a street restaurant; and, after all the cabbage is sold (some to the cook), buying gifts for his family at the Hundred Goods Store. All around him people are making ready for the New Year celebration. At the end of the story, Long-Long sees a parade; eats a tang-hu-lu (a stick of toffee fruit); and goes home to his village with the things he and his grandfather have bought for their own family's New Year celebration. The art: A beautiful series of detailed double-page spreads.
At the back of the book, the author provides a note on "The Very First Chinese Spring Festival" and a glossary of Chinese words in the story (including the Chinese characters; this came in very handy when we wanted to make a Fu sign for our front door). Sometimes I think I should have named this blog At the Back of the Book; I love back matter and think it's an important but often overlooked part of the package for many of my favorite kinds of books. Like this one. Highly recommended.
And it's not too late: Spring Festival (the celebration that begins on the first day of the Lunar New Year) lasts fifteen days!