cover image Dragonfly Eyes

Dragonfly Eyes

Cao Wenxuan, trans. from the Chinese by Helen Wang. Candlewick, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0018-8

A French grandmother and her Shanghai-born granddaughter recount 50 years of family history in this profound saga by Hans Christian Andersen Medalist Cao. Ah Mei and her French paternal grandmother Nainai have always been close, especially because Ah Mei is the youngest grandchild, the only girl, and the one who resembles Nainai the most. Ever since Ah Mei’s birth, Nainai has regaled her with stories of her youth, as when she details her and Ah Mei’s grandfather’s tale of love at first sight in 1925 France (“It felt as if a curtain had been swept open and a dazzling shaft of sunlight had come flooding in through the window”) before they settled down in what would become their generational home in 1939 Shanghai. Despite the family’s financial struggles, Nainai finds peace in spending time with her beloved children and grandchildren, until she’s accused of espionage during China’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Told via an omniscient third-person perspective that alternates between Nainai’s past and Ah Mei’s present day, Cao delicately portrays atrocities alongside peaceful, idyllic life with aesthetic prose and nostalgic imagery, providing a tender look into one transnational family’s ancestry. A brief author’s note lends historical context. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)