Work Title: China
Work Author(s): Elizabeth Breau
Byline: Elizabeth Breau
It will be hard to resist talking about China in the coming year, and the following three books provide some historical, pictorial, and mythological background and talking points about the nation hosting the 2008 Olympics.
To Grandmother's House: A Visit to Old-Town Beijing (Gibbs, Smith, 978-1-4236-0283-5) is a picture book for all ages. Two cousins, both young teens, travel across Beijing to visit their grandmother. They must arrive at a certain time as the grandma has a surprise awaiting them.
The girls, who are both Chinese, talk on cellphones, ride in a "pedicab," peruse the gift shops, take each other's picture, examine the food stalls, and visit a 750-year-old drum tower. At the same time they "tell" us of their journey (in both English and Mandarin) they are "showing" us as well with the use of large, colorful photographs by the author, Douglas Keister. The girls often appear in the photos, demonstrating the noise of the drum or pointing out the view of one of the old Beijing neighborhoods.
While the sites in Beijing are unlike anything in the U.S., the girls themselves look like girls anywhere. And the "surprise" is also of the kind that grandmas all over the world treat their loved ones to.
To Grandmother's House includes phonetic translations of important words, a map and short notes on the sites, and a recipe.
Red Butterfly: How a Princess Smuggled the Secret of Silk Out of China (Candlewick, 978-0-7636-2400-2) tells the story of a young girl (a very young girl) who's father has arranged her marriage to a bridegroom who "rules a green oasis in the sand."
The princess doesn't want to leave her homeland of many splendors. She doesn't want to leave the pine trees, the sparrow song, nor her littlest brother who "plays for me his simple flute, made from the bone of a red-crowned crane." She's terribly afraid that once she rides beyond the mountains of her father's kingdom, there will be only sand forever and ever. "I would give every silver hairpin...for one brush of southern mist, one windy, silken...