With a superbly executed “diptych” of graphic novels, Yang (American Born Chinese) employs parallel storylines to represent two opposing Chinese experiences during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century. Raised in an impoverished rural village, Little Bao and his older brothers embark on a crusade to save China from Christian missionaries and other “foreign devils” who are perceived to be the cause of their country’s woes. What begins as a righteous march to the capital, bolstered by Little Bao’s recurring visions of a pantheon of Chinese gods, quickly escalates in violence and rhetoric. By the time Little Bao and his amassed army, dubbed the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, reach the occupied city of Peking, morale is strained and the line between right and wrong has blurred. Yang doesn’t shy from the ensuing bloodshed (beheadings are not uncommon), yet moments of lightheartedness and potential romance humanize the combatants, even as their campaigns take on zealous dimensions. Yang’s artwork and storytelling are sober and accessible, and his character-driven approach brings compassion to a complex historical clash. Ages 12–up. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013 Release date: 09/10/2013 Genre: Children's
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