Jiang, Ji-Li. Red Kite, Blue Kite. Greg Ruth, Illus. Pic. Bk. Disney/Hyperion, 2013. p. $17.99. 978-1-4231-2753-6. OUTSTANDING. GRADES K-3.
The Bay Area author of Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997) and Magical Monkey King (HarperCollins, 2002) bases her new picture book on the experience of a family friend during China’s Cultural Revolution. It is a poignant tale of a father and son separated when the father is imprisoned but is able to communicate through the kites they fly and, when too far apart, their memories of those kites. Small Tai Shan is the protagonist; when reunited with his father he is still quite young. Greg Ruth’s illustrations are very fine; he captures sweeps of the Chinese countryside and urban scenes, mixing them with evocative close-ups of Tai Shan and his father. Most of the illustrations are in muted tones punctuated by the blues and reds of the kites, but there are occasional sketches that are even more quietly drawn, possibly in pencil, that bring to mind Chinese ink brush paintings. A one-page author’s note gives a brief description of the Cultural Revolution. Text is simple but suffused with the emotions of loneliness, sadness, hope, and familial love. For elementary age readers but probably most successfully used in the company of an adult who will take time for discussion and questions.
Elizabeth Overmyer, Independent
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