From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4-Children whose ideas about life in New York's Chinatown come solely from books about holiday celebrations will get a deeper glimpse from this former resident's solo debut. In four ruminative, simply phrased free-verse poems, one for each season, Mak looks back to childhood: to feeling homesick for Hong Kong, or excited by the annual Dragon Boat races; happily spoiling his appetite for dinner with fish balls purchased from a cart; and drifting off to sleep next to his mother as she does piecework on her sewing machine. There are no colorful urban street scenes or (with the exception of the Dragon Boat race) panoramic views in Mak's sober, extraordinary paintings. Instead, he focuses on individual figures-a curbside fortune-teller, a cobbler, a wide-eyed child drinking in a shop-rendered with photographic realism and placed against plain, undecorated backgrounds. The mood is generally wistful, though brightened at the end by a New Year's lion float prancing into view. The distinctly personal voice and sensibility makes this a natural companion for the more community-conscious tour in William Low's Chinatown (Holt, 1997).John Peters, New York Public Library
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*Starred Review* Gr. 2-6, younger for reading aloud. Extraordinary photo-realistic paintings and spare, free-verse poems bring New York's Chinatown to life in this picture book with appeal to a wide age group. Organized chronologically through the seasons, the poems follow a young boy from Hong Kong through his first year in the U.S. Written in the boy's voice, the words capture the fear and discomfort of adjusting to newness: "The English words taste like metal in my mouth." But as the year progresses, the boy feels the irresistible vitality of his new community, helped along by signs of the familiar; and at year's end, he exuberantly celebrates the dragon parade and his new home: "Drums beat / feet stamp / hands clap / voices shout / Chinatown, / this is Chinatown!" The words and pictures work beautifully together; both glow with a quiet intensity that complements rather than overpowers the other. Whether or not they've known displacement, readers will come away with a deeper interest in Chinatown's culture and in immigration stories in general. Suggest this to teachers doing units on home and place. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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