Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood

James McMullan. Algonquin Young Readers, $19.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-61620-255-2
The grandchild of missionaries and the son of extroverted socialites, illustrator McMullan was forced to leave China when WWII started and the Japanese occupied the country. His life became an oxymoron: always civilized, perpetually disrupted. From Vancouver to India, from public school to boarding school, McMullan writes of his struggles with bullying, uncertainty about his father’s fate back in China, but most of all with the knowledge that he could never live up to his father’s expectations. When he breaks into sobs upon being left in yet another school on another continent, his father cringes. “Oh, for God’s sakes, be a man!” he cries. McMullan never sees his father again. Watercolors on recto pages illustrate each one-page episode with careful, thoughtful lines and wash, the visual equivalent of McMullan’s prose. Early memories of beauty (“Sometimes when the peaks were lit with a particularly glorious gold and pink sunrise... I found myself called out for not doing my jumping jacks in the same rhythm as the other boys”) give the story moments of unexpected sweetness. Ages 12–up. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Mar.)■
Reviewed on: 01/13/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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Open Ebook - 250 pages - 978-1-61620-401-3
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