cover image Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat

Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat

Jennifer Armstrong. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58656-3

Nimble, polished prose and elegant, cinnamon-toned paintings distinguish this pungent Chinese folktale. Newly widowed (and newly impoverished) Chin Yu Min is nearly done in by her own haughtiness after she spurns the kindness of her neighbors: ``Coin by square-holed-coin, her strings of cash flowed away like streams from a fishpond.'' Encountering a cat expertly catching fish with a graceful flick of its tail, she eagerly offers the creature a home in exchange for food. Complacent once again, the old woman rudely dismisses a beggar, giving him nothing but ``a torn and tattered basket''--unaware that her beloved cat is asleep inside. In a dynamic debut, Grandpre's tony illustrations--featuring strikingly angular, elongated figures--capture every humorous nuance, even as they convey Chin Yu Min's anguish at her own folly. Armstrong's ( Hugh Can Do ) vigorous text is rich with imagery and regional flavor, making the ultimate reunion of the repentant woman and her faithful feline all the more endearing. Neatly turned phrases and carefully considered language fall pleasantly on the ear without becoming flowery or overdone. In sum, the graceful balance of word and image yields a treat to be savored. Ages 4-9. (Mar.)