Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Michael Jung
The year is 1966, and seven-year-old Little Leap Forward is growing up in Beijing. While life is difficult in this post-war environment, it is also fun for Little Leap Forward and his friend Little Little. They spend their free time flying homemade kites, catching fish, and playing by the riverbank. On one of these outings, Little Little catches a tiny bird and gives it to Little Leap Forward as a gift. Little Leap Forward cares for the bird, and he cannot understand why his new pet refuses to sing. Then the Cultural Revolution breaks out, Little Leap Forward finds that many traditional Chinese books, songs, and practices are being banned in the name of creating a new China. Feeling a life of freedom is better than life in a cage, he sets his bird free. Based on Guo Yue's childhood experiences in Beijing, this book both speaks out against certain Chinese communist practices and punctures Western misconceptions about the Chinese. While Chinese people often have been stereotyped as a single-minded robotic race, the community Little Leap Forward describes is full of diversity and beauty. Life is never boring for the children, who spend their time creating their own games, working with their families, and exploring natural wonders by the riverbank. Rich in poetry and spirit, this book will provide insights for those who know little about China and the Cultural Revolution. It should be noted, however, that any lessons built around this book should also teach students about modern-day China, lest students believe that China is still in the post-war state described here. Reviewer: Michael Jung
School Library Journal

Gr 3-6

Living in Beijing with their large, loving families, Little Leap Forward and Little-Little are the best of friends. One day clever Little-Little captures a small yellow bird that he gives to Little Leap Forward. Though Little Leap Forward plays his flute and tries to get Little Cloud to sing, she remains silent. When the terrible disruptions of the Cultural Revolution begin, Little Leap Forward senses the fear and sadness of his friends and family. And as their lives become more and more constricted, he begins to understand why he must release his precious bird if he wants to hear her sing. Based on Guo's childhood, this is a gentle, lyrical story, yet the undercurrents of change and loss are strong. Though the metaphor of the bird is part of the fabric of the tale, the author never becomes moralistic or didactic, and the horrors of the Revolution never overwhelm the story. Because of this, the novel is suitable for readers younger than those who might pick up Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997), Chun Yu's Little Green (S & S, 2005), or Moying Li's Snow Falling in Spring (Farrar, 2008). The afterword includes a brief, accessible explanation of the Cultural Revolution. As a final plus, the book is beautifully designed. Kites, an important element in the story, are used on the elegant endpapers, and numerous illustrations, full of jewel-toned colors, are scattered throughout. In every way, this is a book to savor.-Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781846861147
  • Publisher: Barefoot Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Pages: 126
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 1, 2014

    Little Leap Forward is a young boy living in Early Communist Chi

    Little Leap Forward is a young boy living in Early Communist China. He and his friends have a pretty happy life. They fly homemade paper kites and play by the nearby river. They seem like they have a life that any kid would have. That is, until soldiers come and change everything! The soldiers want to get rid of “Old China” by burning and wrecking anything that reminds people of the way they used to live and to prepare for “New China”.

    This is a great nonfiction autobiography that was written by Little Leap Forward himself! I learned a lot about China in this time period. Little Leap Forward (in the book) is a nice young boy who cares about nature and what is going on around him. I think I would enjoy meeting him.  The illustrations are beautiful and well-done. They help me see the story better. 
    I love how they have a warm-ish feeling to them. There is an afterward in the book about what happened to the author after the story ends. It really added to the completeness of the story. I totally enjoyed learning about China during this time period. I haven’t read any other stories set in this time period.
    *NOTE I got a copy of this book for a birthday present

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