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Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat Paperback – October 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Praising the "nimble, polished prose and elegant cinnamon-toned paintings" that "distinguish this pungent Chinese folktale," PW starred this retelling of the tale of a newly impoverished, haughty widow and the cat that brings about her change of heart. Ages 4-9.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-4-- Chin Yu Min, a haughty and frivolous rich woman in a fictitious Old China, must mend her ways when her husband dies and her money runs out. She meets a ginger cat who fishes so well with his tail that she recoups some of her fortunes from selling his catches. When he disappears, Chin Yu Min is so distraught that she humbles herself enough to ask her neighbors for help; when the cat is found, she invites them to dinner. Despite a rather abrupt volte-face, this is an amusing story that is told with gusto in mellifluous prose. The exaggerated melodramatics of Chin Yu Min offset her vicissitudes with comic effect and successfully soften the implied moral. The illustrations, in watercolor and pastels, accentuate the entertaining theatricality of the text. Colors are rich, yet applied with subtlety. Composition is dramatic, and perspective is employed strikingly. The eponymous cat is properly anthropomorphized without losing his felinity. As this is a fanciful invention, inaccuracy of detail in clothing, dwellings, implements, etc. can be overlooked. However, the exaggerated stylization and angular pitch of the characters' eyes and cheekbones perpetuate an unfortunate, offensive stereotype. This surprising and distressing feature disqualifies an otherwise enterprising work for inclusion in any children's collection. --John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The story of Chin Yu Min offers important lessons for children (and, let’s be honest, plenty of adults, too) in pride, entitlement and treating others with kindness. Chin Yu Min is a conceited woman who views others as beneath her, even when she is reduced to a peasant. When luck finds her on the first day she might starve in the form of a ginger cat on the docks, she convinces him to fish for her and considers her superior status vindicated. She becomes reliant on the ginger cat as she was her husband and continues her haughty behavior. It’s only when her arrogance costs her the ginger cat that she recognizes the error of her ways and begins making amends.
This is a great book for the busy mom (and her kids). In an era when it seems so many young adults have an inflated sense of self-worth and unrealistic expectations of entitlements, a story taking on the subject of pride is particularly poignant. Reading it creates a great opportunity for discussions about the pitfalls of arrogance versus the effect of being gracious and respectful to others, no matter your station in life. While I don’t expect this one book will alter the trajectory for any one kid’s life in terms of their behavior, I hope it will plant a seed for mine about being kind to others whether you are rich, poor, or somewhere in between.
Reviewer's notes: We were given this book as a gift but sadly, it seems this book may not be actively in print. If you're looking for a copy, I found it available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, the illustrator is the very same Mary Grandpre of the Harry Potter books!
Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful. :)
Accomplished author, Jennifer Armstrong pens this delightful Chinese story about a haughty widow and the lesson she must learn. Chin Yu Min is a proud and arrogant woman who feels the wealth that she has is only what she deserves, and she mistreats others around her to show her power. But when her husband dies suddenly, she is left alone and the money slowly runs out. Chin Yu Min is too proud to accept the help of her neighbors-too proud to admit her poverty to anyone. But when she is desperate enough to try fishing for herself for food, she happens upon a most remarkable cat that can catch fish with his tale. Our crafty widow strikes a deal with the cat-he will catch fish for her and she will provide him with a home to stay in. The cat agrees and the new bounty of fish allows the widow to become wealthy again. But Chin Yu Min's new partnership gradually turns to friendship with the cat, and when her old arrogance threatens to separate her from the ginger cat, the widow will have to decide between her material wealth and the value of friendship.
Each page is full of Ms. Armstrong's trademark descriptions and lyrical imagery: "The fine lacquer bowls were dulled by hard use, and the lettered scrolls of sheerest paper flapped like ragged ghosts from the walls." The setting and details clearly evoke China without feeling uncomfortable to a reader who may be less familiar with the setting. The themes of this story are universal. As a reader who finds words a feast, this is a sumptuous meal indeed, but it may be a bit complicated for younger listeners, and a challenge for new readers. The book is text heavy, so it may be a challenge to read aloud and probably too long for younger children. The grade school child is likely the best audience for this story.
All on its own, the story is a marvel. But what truly makes this book "butterscotch" are Mary Grandpre's masterful illustrations. Some of you might recognize Ms. Grandpre's artwork on the covers of the Harry Potter series, but before she had turned her talents to Mr. Potter, she created books such as this. I would not have guessed this was the illustrator's first picture book had it not mentioned it in her bio, her talent shines through and it was the pictures that first enticed me to pull this book from the shelf to page through. The art is stylistic without losing the human touch to it, and all the lines feel soft and fluid. There's a warmth and light to the images that creates a truly rich tapestry for the story. The ginger cat comes to life in her pictures, especially his long and elegant tale as it catches fish out of the water. Rather than going for realistic scenes or single story perspectives, Ms. Grandpre creates scenes that capture movement and emotion in each image, allowing the reader to feel the glow of contentment when Chin Yu Min and the cat are seated together by the fire, or the terrible sorrow the widow feels when she realizes she's lost her friend and her scrolls go tumbling around her to the floor.
The book has become a beloved favorite in my collection. If you enjoy this story, you might wish to take a look at Pockets, also by Jennifer Armstrong and illustrated by Mary Grandpre. For other multicultural tales, you might also wish to check out Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami and Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott.
Happy Reading! ^_^ Shanshad