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My Chinatown: One Year in Poems Library Binding – December 4, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*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 Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Library Binding: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (December 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060291915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060291914
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,046,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on September 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"My Chinatown: One Year in Poems," by Kam Mak, is a truly beautiful blend of poetry and visual artwork. The simple, straightforward poems tell about life in Chinatown for a young boy whose family has emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States. The poems are accompanied by richly colored illustrations. A sample of the writing style: "If you have money in your pocket, / you're never hungry / in Chinatown."
The illustrations capture many memorable images: a bunch of colorful kumquats, a cobbler at work, colorful dragon boats, and more. This book is a wonderful celebration of the people, food, and cultural events of Chinatown.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Erin O. on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
'My Chinatown' is a beautiful book about a young boy who misses his old home in China and how he is slowly discovering his new neighborhood- Chinatown. The beautiful pictures in the book are bright and bold with simple prose to guide the reader on this young boys adventure. The book is broken down by seasons as the young boys describes the transformation his neighborhood takes during various times of the year.

I brought a copy of this book home very well expecting it to go on the bookshelf and to languish there until my son got older. I was pleasantly surprised that even at 18-months my toddler gravitated to the book and enjoys looking at the artwork. It is wonderful to share this book with him; he likes the picture of the kumquats. This is a beautiful book with brilliantly bright artwork and a wonderful gift for a child or adult.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have only a few, treasured children's books on your shelf, My Chinatown should be one of them. Rarely does a picture book ever exceed the level of entertainment or visual treat and amusement to ascend to a realm where, well, you get tingles while experiencing it. And this book must be held in your hands and consumed. Each page is a frameable work of imaginative, breathtakingly beautiful art. Each poem is a vignette of life in Chinatown, complete with all the sensory details in a few lines. Like Matisse's few strokes that reveal a cat, Kam Mak's writing reveals entire scenes that come to life simply, remarkably. Even if I did not have a child, I would love to have this book on my coffee table. Reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg (Polar Express, Jumaniji) where elegant, spare writing and outstanding art work combine to make magic. My Chinatown is miraculous.
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By Plum square on May 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The author does an amazing job of capturing the emotions and attachments of his childhood between Hong Kong and New York. The poems are sad, happy, and full of keen observations. The illustrations are beautiful. A favorite...
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