I rarely review picture books on my blog, but thought I’d make an exception for Ming’s Christmas Wishes, as it’s about a young Chinese girl who feels like she’s not enough. At school she’s too “Chinese” while at home she’s too “American”. Any child of first-generation immigrants can definitely relate to this feeling at some point in their life.
As this is a picture book, the illustrations are of utmost importance. I was extremely impressed with Masahiro Tateishi’s illustrations. The illustrations are a combo of digital and traditional paintings. Elements of calligraphy and traditional Chinese designs can also be found throughout the book. I loved how the flashbacks were done in a more traditional style and that they were shown as less vivid on the pages to differentiate the recollections from the current scenes. The illustrations complemented the text perfectly, as what you read in the text is basically what you see in the corresponding illustrations, and this is perfect for Susan’s straightforward storytelling.
That being said, I found the story left much to be desired. For instance, while it was good to see the early history of the Chinese Americans alluded to, that’s all that happened. There were brief mentions of early hardships, the San Francisco’s “Great Quake” as well the Chinese “picture brides” but nothing was really explained. It felt like the author tried to touch on as many historical points as possible and as a result none of them were discussed in a meaningful way. Instead it may be confusing to just about anyone reading the book who is unaware of the historical context of the story. Even I had many unanswered questions after finishing the book. This also isn’t helped because the story ends rather abruptly, and while the message of blending traditions is nice, there was no proper lead up to the conclusion. Many of the conflicts were also left unresolved, and the reader is supposed to go along with the fact that things are going to be okay.
I’m all for more diversity in picture books, especially Christmas ones. And I think kids will relate to Ming’s curiosity and questioning nature, her desire to fit in and her frustration with adults telling her no with no explanation. I related to her close relationship with her father, who was more understanding than her strict mother. Ming’s Christmas Wishes has the potential to be a good jumping point for conversations about the Chinese immigrant experience and about racism and discrimination.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.
This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books for kids, just in time for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week!
Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms written by Robert Paul Weston & illustrated by Misa Saburi
I don’t often read and review picture books, but Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms was such an adorable and heartwarming read that I’d thought I share on my blog. Written by Robert Paul Weston and gorgeously illustrated by Miso Saburi, this book follows a little girl named Sakura whose family has to move from Japan to the US. This book is perfect for kids, especially those who have moved to a new city or even country as it perfectly captures the difficulties that kids may face as well it shows the importance of good friends and how strong family bonds will always be there even when you are not physically near each other. Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms manages to stay light-hearted for kids while touching on topics like fitting in, bullying, homesickness and illness. I also loved how it shows that as a new kid even if you have just one friend, if they’re a good one it will make all the difference. Despite not being a kid, I really did enjoy both the story and the illustrations. And I think even adult readers would be able to appreciate the charm of Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms especially if they’re fans of seeing cherry blossoms in the spring.
Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney
Middle Grade books tend to be either a hit or miss for me. For instance, I adore Susin Nielsen’s books but haven’t had much luck with other middle-grade novels. However, Vikki VanSickle at Penguin Random House Canada made a strong case for Rachelle Delaney’s Clara Voyant that I just had to give it a chance. This novel is set Toronto’s Kensington Market, which had me intrigued as it’s a neighbourhood that I’ve recently discovered and fell in love with. I also liked the premise of astrology and psychic abilities. That being said, it took me an incredibly long time to get invested in the characters and plot as it was only near the end when the book started to get interesting for me. What I did appreciate about this novel, however was the wonderful friendship between Clara and Maeve, and how both girls had their own ambitions but still made time for each other. I also thought the twist at the end and the reveal of what happened to the missing mascot to be quite clever. While Clara Voyant certainly had its satisfying and entertaining moments, overall I don’t think this was my cup of tea. I do think that this would make for an excellent read for those in middle grade who are slowly figuring out who they are and who might not feel completely comfortable in their own skin yet.
Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.