Tag Archive: kites


king for a day

King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Kromer

It is Basant in the city of Lahore, Pakistan and Malik has only made one kite to use in the kite battles over the city.  Malik is still sure of himself though, eager to show how fast his Falcon kite is.  Malik is especially interested in teaching the bully who lives next door a lesson for all of the times he’s said horrible things to Malik and his sister.  He also dreams of being the king of Basant, the best kite fighter in the city.  Malik spends his day freeing other kites by cutting their strings, and at the end of the day he has a pile of kites at his feet.  Then the neighborhood bully emerges again and tries to take a kite from a little girl, but Malik uses his new status as King to solve the problem.

Khan has captured a unique festival in Pakistan that is vivid, visual and offers children the ability to take on the city for a day.  Malik sits in a wheelchair throughout the book, but it is never mentioned in the text.  This quiet acceptance of a disability adds power to the idea that Basant is a holiday for everyone and that all abilities and ages can participate.  Khan has a nice touch with the kite battles, creating drama by sharing details but also making sure that the story is fast-paced and interesting.

Kromer’s illustrations are a beautiful mix of paper art and textiles.  Using textiles from the region brings in the deep colors and textures.  The paper arts capture the crispness of the kites in the sky and also the beauty of the people.  The mix of the two has a richness that suits the subject.

Celebrate Basant with this picture book that offers a glimpse of the Pakistani culture through the eyes of a young boy.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss.

red kite blue kite

Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth

Based on the true story of a family friend, this book tells the story of a father and son separated during the Cultural Revolution in China.  Tai Shan and his father, Baba, loved to fly kites together from the roof of their home in their crowded city.  Then bad times come and the schools are closed.  Baba is sent to a labor camp and Tai Shan is sent to life in a small village with Granny Wang.  Both Tai Shan and his father continue to fly their kites, using them as a signal to one another and a way to maintain contact.  Eventually, Baba is taken further away to another labor camp where they cannot communicate with kites.  All that can be done is to wait until Baba is free again and their kites can soar together once more.

This picture book will be best understood by older children.  There is no need to have a background in Chinese history to understand this book because the story is so universal.  The use of kites as imagery of freedom and connection works particularly well, especially in the ending which is particularly uplifting after the tension and sorrow of the rest of the tale.  Jiang writes in prose that is filled with the emotion of the time.  He writes with deep compassion and doesn’t shy away from the pain that fills Tai Shan’s days separated from his father.

Ruth’s illustrations capture the mood of the story very effectively.  He moves from bright golds and oranges in the city to the dull colors of khaki and earth when the two are separated.  The color scheme is only alleviated by the pop of color from their kites.  When the two are together again, the color begins to return to the landscape.

This is a striking and universal look at families that are torn apart by war and the haunted time they spend apart.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

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