The Nian Monster

Andrea Wang, illus. by Alina Chau. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-5642-9
Wang’s story begins as Xingling and her grandmother hang red paper decorations for the Chinese New Year in Shanghai. Po Po explains that the Nian Monster once plagued China by eating whole villages. Since the monster is afraid of “loud sounds, fire, and the color red,” the decorations prevent its return. The Nian Monster seems no more than a fantasy, but as Xingling cooks, he leaps onto the family’s balcony. “I have come to devour this city!” he roars, causing buildings to shudder. Xingling turns out to be a cool-headed hero. “Have a bowl of long-life noodles first,” she advises the monster. “If you live longer, you can conquer more cities.” More crafty culinary thinking slows Nian down further (bony fish, sticky glutinous rice), and a fireworks scheme sends him packing. Wang’s story thrills but doesn’t threaten: Chau’s wonderfully vivid watercolors give the monster doe eyes and a round body that make him seem like a cranky, overgrown teddy bear, and Wang shares cultural information about the Chinese New Year with the lightest of touches. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2016
Release date: 12/01/2016
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