I loved Liu and the Bird when I saw it at a local library. I sent a copy to an artist friend knowing she would share it with her grandaughter. Besides showing how Chinese calligraphy evolved from pictograms, it is a great story.
This simple story distills Chinese pictographs into their most basic elements, showing how they evolved to their present forms. But it's also a delightful and poetic story about a girl who dreams her grandfather calls to her from across the mountains.
She sets out on foot, recording the scenery and people she encounters in her calligraphy, creating multiple layers of storytelling. I read each page carefully, going over the boldfaced English words (the original was in French) and matching them to the Chinese symbols to make sure I understood.
Louis writes on the back flap that she used linocuts, a type of woodcut, with dyed paper so she could "contrast the strong lines of the prints with the softness of the torn paper." It creates a striking visual effect, with the print marks simulating the strokes of a calligraphy brush, and the vivid colors of a Westernized palette bleeding elegantly into the paper beneath.
Chinese calligraphy will always be a subject that must be absorbed rather than scanned; make sure you have some quiet time for its meditative lessons.
Note: includes activities for creating pictograms with your kids.