"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Little White Duck: a Childhood In China

Little White Duck: A Childhood In China by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez, 2012.

This autobiographical graphic novel is the story of  Na Liu's upbringing in China, beginning in 1976 when Chairman Mao dies. Liu tells stories that are unique to her experience in that place and time frame. Her younger sister is born just one year after her, and when their mother is pregnant with Xiao Qin, a new law is passed that each family can only have one child, or they must pay fines. Because the baby is already on the way, Liu's family does not have to pay. This gives the reader an idea of how involved the government was in a family's business.

 Liu tells how when she was in school, the children were encouraged to fight the "four pests": the rat, fly, mosquito and cockroach. She and her classmates were asked to bring in rat tails to show that they were doing their part. Liu now notes that sparrows were once one of the four pests, and they were hunted to the point where there were no birds to control crop eating insects. This in turn contributed to the great Chinese famine.

When the sisters leave food uneaten in their plates, their mother tells them about hungry times when their father ate tree leaves, her own family consumed potato stem soup and desperate people even ate mud and perished. The girls are horrified!

These are just a couple of the childhood memories that Liu shares in this enlightening book. Even though the circumstances are unfamiliar to us now, Liu's childhood behavior is universally recognizable, like when she and her sister enjoy their favorite holiday (New Year) with family,  when they come up with crazy schemes to reach a goal (catching rats!) and when they try to imitate the hero Lei Feng (with disastrous results).

 The book also includes a timeline of Chinese history, glossary of Mandarin Chinese words, a map of the Hubei Province and a brief  text biography of Na Liu. The illustrations are done by Liu's husband Andres Vera Martinez.

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