Liu and the Bird: A Journey in Chinese Calligraphy

Catherine Louis, Illustrator, Sibylle Kazeroid, Translator, Feng Xiao Min, Calligrapher
Catherine Louis, Illustrator, Sibylle Kazeroid, Translator, Feng Xiao Min, Calligrapher NorthSouth $16.95 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7358-2050-0
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Paperback - 978-0-7358-2216-0
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Swiss author/artist Louis constructs a story around the introduction of 30 simple Chinese characters. Her rather clunky tale follows Liu, a small Chinese girl, as she makes her way to her grandfather's house over the mountains, encountering birds, snow and other characters from beginning calligraphy class. ""The voice of love can be heard from far away,"" her grandfather says, welcoming her. The rich black lines of Louis's linocuts contrast fetchingly with the delicate fibers of the dyed paper they are printed on. Liu, depicted in her straw hat, strides through a series of Chinese landscapes. Each framed image highlights sets of three symbols, the first showing the featured item itself (the sun, a star, a man), a stylized version of the item midway between representation and character, and the black brush-stroked calligraphic character itself. The character for ""love,"" for instance, is shown together with its source-a drawing of the human heart. Feng's calligraphy emphasizes the dynamism of the brushwork, and as such the lines are sometimes muddied; his characters may not be the clearest examples of the standard. When Grandfather instructs Liu to tell the story of her journey, ""not with words, but with pictures,"" she draws the people she's seen, then a bird. ""And suddenly, it flew off the page,"" Liu says, as the bird bursts through the illustration's frame. It's here, in Louis's artwork, that the real excitement of the book may be found. An afterword contains ideas for calligraphy-based activities. Ages 4-up.
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