Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Little White Duck isn't Communist propaganda. It is at once more innocent and more sophisticated. What Liu and Mart?nez do is convey a child's-eye view of a country in transition. Politics, culture and history play into their stories, but the reader's awareness of them is a child's awareness. The mural of Mao and the ancient gods and the colorful posters encouraging patriotic behavior are probably important, but fireworks, schemes to catch rats and pretty jackets with soft little white duck-shaped patches are so much more interesting. Liu and Martínez perfectly capture that childhood exuberance, but grown-up sensibilities nonetheless underlie their storytelling. Every so often, Martínez's panels give way to propagandistic images, forcing a dialogue between Da Qin's real life and the ideal life espoused by her government.
—Gene Luen Yang
Publishers Weekly
A doctor of oncology and hematology, author Liu was born in China in 1973, and her life there for more than 20 years provides plenty of odd autobiographical tidbits for this graphic novel inspired by her experiences. Aimed toward kids, Liu’s story captures life in China in the experience of one child, showing how even the broadest governmental policies and cultural standards affect an individual’s smallest moments. These darker corners give Liu’s reminiscence its power: strict Chinese one-child laws, the graphic misfortune of animals in China, the poverty and surliness of Liu’s rural relatives. Yet while the landscape is different, the children’s escapades are the same as those of kids today. This is the result of a husband-and-wife collaboration, and the emotional bond of the partnership is clear on every page. Liu is a calm storyteller whose words are enlivened by Martinez’s enthusiastic and energetic art, and their respective tones complement each other fluidly. Martinez’s work is a loving depiction of his wife in childhood, providing atmosphere through not only his period details in the stories, but also the between-story spreads that broaden the reader’s scope in understanding life in China at that time. Ages 9-13 (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
A striking glimpse into Chinese girlhood during the 1970s and '80s.Beginning with a breathtaking dream of riding a golden crane over the city of Wuhan, China, Liu Na, recounts her subsequent waking only to discover that Chairman Mao has passed away. The 3-year-old finds this difficult to process and understand, although she is soon caught up in the somber mood of the event. From there, her life unfolds in short sketches. With this intimate look at her childhood memories, Liu skillfully weaves factual tidbits into the rich tapestry of her life. In the section titled "The Four Pests," she explains about the four pests that plague China—the rat, the fly, the mosquito and the cockroach (with an additional explanation of how the sparrow once made this list, and why it is no longer on it)—and her stomach-turning school assignment to catch rats and deliver the severed tails to her teacher. In "Happy New Year! The Story of Nian the Monster," she explains the origins of Chinese New Year, her favorite holiday, and her own vivid, visceral reflections of it: the sights, sounds and smells. Extraordinary and visually haunting, there will be easy comparisons to Allen Say's Drawing from Memory (2011); think of this as the female counterpart to that work. Beautifully drawn and quietly evocative. (glossary, timeline, author biography, translations of Chinese characters, maps) (Graphic memoir. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761381150
  • Publisher: Graphic Universe
  • Publication date: 10/28/2012
  • Pages: 108
  • Sales rank: 286,187
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

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