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Little White Duck: A Childhood in China by A. Liu

Liu, Alex. Little White Duck: A Childhood in China. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe, 2012. Print.

This graphic memoir is co-written by author/illustrator Andrès Vera Martinez and his wife Na Liu.  Martinez, an accomplished and award winning illustrator, accurately captures Na Liu’s childhood perspective of China during the 1970’s and early 80’s.  Little White Duck: A Childhood in China is composed of eight insightful short stories of Na Liu and her younger sister Xiao Qin’s childhood experiences in Wuhan, China.   The table of contents, glossary, timeline, map, and translations are helpful features that enable readers to gain background knowledge and context while reading.

Each story in this memoir provides the reader with an opportunity to explore aspects of China’s history and traditions in a subtle yet striking visual format that complements the deeply reflective narrative voice of Na Liu.  Although the stories are not directly connected, they each offer a unique perspective and understanding of Chinese culture and history.

What stands out about this graphic novel memoir is more than just memories, but rather the eloquently captured events and stories that have no doubt shaped Na Liu into the person she is today.  For example, when Na Liu went to visit her cousins in the countryside, she discovered that life was different there and times were tough. Although not explicitly stated, but inferred through the illustrations, the reader is left knowing that Na Liu was touched by the kindness and acceptance of her cousins and also recognized the sacrifices that her dad made to provide her with the life she had.

Crisp, simple images combined with appropriate amounts of text make this an extremely accessible book for younger audiences.  The wisdom and perspective Da Qin shares acknowledges that her experiences as a child set her life apart from the one her parents and others experienced.  A message that transcends culture and place, and one that is important for children to consider and begin to understand centres around sacrifices that parents make, and that events that shape their lives and their identity.

Highly recommended for school libraries as a multitude of connections can be made across the curriculum. It is appropriate for a wide range of grade and reading levels, and it is an excellent addition to enhance culturally responsive collections.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Tamzen Kulyk

Tamzen Kulyk is a teacher-librarian at two elementary schools in the Saskatoon Public School Division in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.