Review: Little White Duck by Na Liu

little white duck

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by Na Liu, illustrated by Andres Vera Martinez

This graphic novel takes a look at the changes in China during the 1970s through the eyes of a young girl.  Da Qin lives in Wahun with her family, including a younger sister.  The book opens with the death of Chairman Mao in 1976 and shows a way of life that was disappearing.  In eight chapters, Liu reveals this transitional and fleeting time in China through experiences in her own childhood.  Along with the main character, readers get to celebrate New Year, capture pests, learn the value of rice, and visit a rural Chinese village.  Throughout, it is a remarkable view into a closed society that is just starting to open itself to the outside.

Liu writes her stories with a wonderful frankness about the playfulness of childhood filled with dreams of riding on cranes, but also tied down to the earth by the everyday nature of the tales.  There is a focus on the small moments of life in China.  Some are amazing to those of us who didn’t live them, like everyone participating in catching the four pests by bringing in a certain number of rat tails. 

Martinez’s art is a study in sepia toned memories made brilliant by the colors of childhood.  Against a gray background, the bright dragon dances at New Year’s.  Orange and yellow flames cook green and brown food.  And even after the drab poverty of the rural village, there are dreams of flying on a crane high in the sky.

Informative and remarkable, this graphic novel takes a fresh and frank look at a childhood in China.  Appropriate for ages 8-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Top 10 Posts of 2012

2012 was a great year for this blog thanks to all of you who visit!  So thank you for making my time spent here so much fun and so worthwhile.  Here are the top posts of the year thanks to you!  Now, my blog does see a lot of action on older posts too, but I kept those out of this list.  My post with the most hits for the year is actually one from 2011, my review of Pie by Sarah Weeks.

I find it intriguing that there are both reviews and award announcements in the top 10 of 2012, no teen novels, and a nice mix of picture book and children’s books.  And I am very proud of all of you for clicking through to books that have characters of different races and books that originated in different countries.  You are clearly an astute group of readers!

secret tree little bird mighty miss malone

10.  Review: The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

9.  Review: Little Bird by Germano Zullo

8.  2012 Notable Children’s Books

7.  Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

i have a dream goldilocks

6. 2013 Kate Greenaway Medal Longlist

5. Review: I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. Review: Goldilocks and the Three bears by Gerda Muller

glory be boy on cinnamon street 

3. 2013 Carnegie Medal Longlist

2. Review: Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

1. Review: The Boy on Cinnamon Street