cover image THE KEY COLLECTION

THE KEY COLLECTION

Andrea Cheng, Author, Yangsook Choi, Illustrator , illus. by Yangsook Choi. Holt $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7153-5

Emotions run affectingly high in Cheng's (Grandfather Counts) gently delivered, tightly written novel. Xiao Jimmy, the 10-year-old narrator, is devoted to his grandmother, Ni Ni, who lives next door. The frail, elderly woman and her grandson spend treasured time together practicing how to write Chinese characters, making jiao zi (dumplings), discussing Ni Ni's childhood in China and playing with the collection of keys she has amassed through the years, which Jimmy likes to pretend are individual members of their extended family. At night, each peers out the window to see if the other's bedroom light is still on; if it is, they playfully scold each other the next morning. Jimmy is devastated to learn that Ni Ni will be moving from Cincinnati to San Francisco to live with her daughter, a doctor who can take better care of her. Cheng skirts the sentimental as she convincingly describes the boy's painful adjustment and the brave front he displays as he helps Ni Ni pack up her belongings. In the satisfying close, Xiao Jimmy brings the key collection, which Ni Ni has left behind, as a gift when he travels to California to celebrate her 80th birthday. Choi (Nim and the War Effort) contributes spare b&w illustrations; a recipe for jiao zi and some Chinese vocabulary can be found at the end. Ages 8-12. (June)