Little White Duck: A Childhood in China

by Andrés Vera Martínez (Author) Andrés Vera Martínez (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
The world is changing for two girls in China in the 1970s. Da Qin--Big Piano--and her younger sister, Xiao Qin--Little Piano--live in the city of Wuhan with their parents. For decades, China's government had kept the country separated from the rest of the world. When their country's leader, Chairman Mao, dies, new opportunities begin to emerge. Da Qin and Xiao Qin soon learn that their childhood will be much different than the upbringing their parents experienced.

Find books about:

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.)

Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4 Up--Based on her childhood experiences, Na Liu and her husband have created a rich, multilayered memoir, incorporating history, geography, language, culture, and mythology into eight short stories; then weaving them together to create an exquisite tapestry of life in China during the 1970s. The work follows a logical progression, capturing youthful experiences against a broad Chinese landscape. Background information establishes each story and seamlessly segues into personal reminiscence, with excellent interweaving of each section. For example, the introductory dream sequence features Na Liu and her sister flying on a crane's back over panoramic China. The first narrative panel depicts the girls' awakening, with a painting of a white crane visible behind their bed. Mythological origins of New Year transition into an account of the family's celebration, with red banners and a dragon puppet echoing the colors and patterns from the previous holiday description. Scenes of daily life are juxtapostioned against the political climate, retelling simple stories through comic panels that can be enjoyed by young readers, but also delivering interesting perspectives and biting commentary on social issues. The grim realities of government propaganda, social class, and family dynamics make the memoir even more poignant. Humor, as well as the plays on words, enlivens many of the sections. The children's expressive faces provide a personal reaction to these contrasting points of view. This picturesque treasure introduces Chinese culture through a personal perspective that is both delightful and thought-provoking.--Babara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, NY

Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

This title travels through the childhood of Na Liu in Wuhan, China in eight delightful stories. The book is illustrated by her husband with colorful pen and ink drawings. The stories take Na and her sister from the death of Chairman Mao to a visit to her grandmother and relatives who live in the countryside. One of the stories explains the various symbols used during Chinese New Year. The China of her childhood is a different country from her parents'. This is a beautiful introduction to a China that few of us will ever understand. The book also contains a glossary of Mandarin Chinese words used as well as translations of Chinese characters in the various chapters. —starred, Library Media Connection

— "Journal" (1/1/2013 12:00:00 AM)
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Graphic Universe (Tm)
Publication date
October 20, 2012
Black-Eyed Susan Award

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!