Sunday, February 10, 2013

Celebrating Chinese New Year: Crouching Tiger, by Ying Chang Compestine (ages 5-9)

Today marks the Year of the Snake in the Chinese calendar and I would like to share a special book, Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine. This book particularly spoke to me about the ways a grandfather reached out to his grandson, stretching across cultural differences. Compestine's story rings true for many families, and it is one that children will appreciate.

illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
Candlewick, 2011
ages 5-9
available at your local library and on Amazon
Like many boys, Vinson loves martial arts and is eager to show off his fastest kicks and punches. When his grandfather visits from China, Vinson watches his grandfather practice the ancient art of tai chi.
"His hands moved like gliding birds. He crouched like a tiger; he drew an invisible bow; he lifted a foot like a rooster and stood still." 
Vinson wants to learn tai chi himself, and his grandfather starts by teaching him a standing meditation. This quiet, disciplined form is definitely a challenge for Vinson, and he almost gives up. He can't understand how tai chi build strength. But when his grandfather brings him to the New Year's parade and asks him to lead the dragon with the cabbage, Vinson is full of awe and respect for his grandfather.

Compestine captivates young readers with this portrait of a family's cultural identities, as the generations reach out to one another. She conveys young Vinson's embarrassment and growing respect for his grandfather as he comes to see and understand him. The illustrations are quiet, until the climatic scenes, matching the narrative journey nicely.

Combine this with Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith's nonfiction Celebrating Chinese New Year, which follows Ryan, a young Chinese-American boy in San Francisco, as his family prepares for Chinese New Year. For a simpler book, look for The Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Maeline Slovenz-Low, which shows how 6-year-old Ernie performs his first lion dance. In simple, easy-to-read sentences, Ernie describes the way he and his family prepare for Chinese New Year. While the photographs are not very crisp, this book is still engaging and worth seeking out.

The review copy of Crouching Tiger was kindly sent by the publishers Candlewick Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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