The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China

Ed Young, Author
Ed Young. Little, Brown, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-316-07628-9
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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In this picture book memoir by the Caldecott Medalist, which opens in 1931 (the year he was born), the stock market has crashed, and China is in turmoil. Young’s father, Baba, persuades a landowner in Shanghai to let him construct a huge brick house on his land; Baba promises to return the house after 20 years, long enough to keep his family safe until WWII ends. Young’s creation, shaped with help from author Libby Koponen, is as complex and labyrinthine as Baba’s house, with foldout pages that open to reveal drawings, photos, maps, and memories. Tender portraits of his siblings, torn-paper collages showing tiny figures at play, and old photos of stylish adults intermingle, as if they’d been found forgotten in a drawer. Young’s fans will savor stories of his East-West childhood; he and his four siblings raise silkworms, watch Westerns, train fighting crickets, and dance the conga when the war finally ends 14 years later. “Life,” Baba writes to his children, “is not rich not real unless you partake life with your fellow man”; Young set the course of his life by his father’s words. It’s history at its most personal. All ages. (Oct.)
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