Synopses & Reviews
When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites--one red, and one blue--rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites-one red, and one blue-until Baba can be free again, like the kites.
Inspired by the dark time of the Cultural Revolution in China, this is a soaring tale of hope that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to love from a distance.
Ruth (A Pirate's Guide to First Grade) paints affecting close ups and dramatically lit spreads that ratchet up the tension as Tai Shan endures separation from his beloved father, Baba, who is imprisoned during China's Cultural Revolution. The days when Tai Shan and Baba flew their kites joyously from the rooftop are only a memory by the time Tai Shan ends up lodging with Granny Wang. When Baba can no longer visit, he flies his blue kite from the prison camp as a signal for Tai Shan, who flies his red kite for Baba. One day, Baba's kite doesn't appear. "Please take me to see Baba," Tai Shan begs Granny Wang. Ruth shows Baba in his prison uniform, wan and unshaven; he has just enough time to ask Tai Shan to wait for him before his transfer to a distant camp. While Tai Shan and Baba are happily reunited, the anguish of their ordeal-which Jiang (Red Scarf Girl) portrays with scrupulous honesty-makes this introduction to Mao's China best suited for readers on the older end of the suggested age range. Ages 5 8.--PW
In this book the reader follows a tragedy that a young boy named Tai Shan faces during the Cultural Revolution in China. The boy's father is abruptly taken from his home and sent to a labor camp. Tai Shan stays connected with his Baba by doing their favorite thing; flying kites together. When Tai Shan sees his father's blue kite, he knows Baba is alive and thinking of him. When he stops seeing the blue kite, he begins to worry. After a long time Baba is reunited with his son again. The story portrays the emotions that a child would feel. An author's note helps young readers understand the time period and the suffering during the Cultural Revolution. The detailed and colorful watercolor paintings paired with the deep emotions in the text make this an excellent read for young children, one that will spark curiosity and questions. Danielle Harte, Graduate Student, SUNY New Paltz, New York Highly Recommended--Library Media Connection
In this fictional story set during China's Cultural Revolution, narrator Tai Shan recalls a favorite boyhood activity-flying kites with his father from "the tippy-top of our triangle roof. We are above but under, neither here nor there. We were free, like the kites." When Tai Shan's father is arrested and sent to a nearby labor camp, father and son stay connected by flying kites, each flying his kite for the other to see. Tai Shan is consumed with worry when his father's kite fails to appear one day, but soon Father makes a hasty appearance, on the run from guards who find him and take him to another, more distant camp. Tai Shan keeps his kite and his hope aloft; when eventually his stubble-bearded, tired, and weakened father does return, the village celebrates by flying their own red and blue kites. A hazy backdrop of village and mountain scenery, awash in golds and earth tones, contrasts effectively with the sharp blue and red of the kites, and the body language of the boy and his father is as emotive as their sensitively captured facial expressions. Jiang supplies some historical context, though not as much as questioning kids might wish, within the narrative and in a closing note. For older listeners, this could be a useful vehicle for opening discussion on political oppression, and for younger children, simply a reassuring tale of a father-son bond strong enough to withstand a trying period of separation. EB--BCCB
Set during the Cultural Revolution in China, a heartwarming tale of a father and son whose love never stops soaring. Tai Shan and his father, Baba, like to climb to the tippy-top of their roof and fly kites. The two kites-one red and one blue-rise and dive through the sky together. But one day, Baba is taken away to a labor camp, and Tai Shan must stay with a woman called Granny Wang, who is not his grandmother but is kind to him. A thick forest and many miles stand between father and son. Luckily, Baba devises a secret way for them to talk: Every morning, Tai Shan flies his red kite on the hill, and every evening Baba flies his blue one. The kites wave in the wind and whisper messages of comfort until the two are reunited. Ruth's muted primary palette of dusty tans and browns are a stark contrast to the few carefully placed flashes of color. The Red Guards' armbands blaze angrily, yet the two kites soaring in the sky and the bright orange leaves on the trees are spots of hope. Though this is told against the backdrop of a dark part of Chinese history, any child coping with separation from a loved one may find comfort in this story. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)--Kirkus
About the Author
Ji-li Jiang (www.jilijiang.com) was born in Shanghai , China. For over twenty years she nursed her childhood memories of surviving the Cultural Revolution in China, and she finally brought them to life in her first book, Red Scarf Girl
, which has sold more than 300,000 copies since it was published in 1997 and has become required reading in many schools. Following the success of Red Scarf Girl
, she published her adaptation of Chinese classic folklore, Magical Monkey King: Mischief in Heaven
. When she isn't writing or speaking, Ji-li devotes time to various cultural exchange programs, including leading group trips to China. She believes that a better understanding among people around the world is the only route to global peace.
Greg Ruth (www.gregthings.com) has worked in comics since 1993, creating artwork for The New York Times, DC Comics, Paradox Press, Fantagraphics Books, Caliber Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and The Matrix. His book projects include The Lost Boy, which he wrote and illustrated, and The Secret Adventures of Jack London, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, A Pirate's Guide to First Grade, and R.L. Stine's Goosebumps tales. After watching President Obama's Inauguration he was inspired to create sketches that eventually became the basis of his picture book Our Enduring Spirit. Greg lives in Massachusetts with his family.