Mao and Me

Jiang Hong Chen, Author . Enchanted Lion $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-59270-079-0

Chen’s (Little Eagle ) picture book memoir of growing up during the Cultural Revolution is not easy to read, but stands out for its epic sweep and unflinching honesty. Rendered in large panels, his ink and wash paintings document everything from the making of dumplings to the public humiliation of cherished neighbors. The early pages are a testament to the quiet devotion of his grandparents; as Mao’s revolution takes hold, Chen’s father is sent to the Russian border for reeducation, food becomes scarce, and the family lives surrounded by fear. Nevertheless, beauty appears in unexpected places, as when foreigners pass through town and Chen and his sister smell perfume for the first time: “As an adult, I have brought her perfume from Paris many times, hoping that one would allow her to rediscover the exotic smell from our childhood, but none has been right.” In its excellence in representing political upheaval through the eyes of a child, this book belongs next to Peter Sís’s The Wall ; in its directness, next to the work of Allen Say. The indefatigable energy of Chen’s brush, though, is all his own. Ages 6–10. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/27/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
Genre: Children's
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