Home for the Holidays: A New Year's Reunion by Yu Li-Quong
PAPA BUILDS BIG HOUSES IN FARAWAY PLACES.
HE COMES HOME ONLY ONCE EACH YEAR, DURING CHINA'S NEW YEAR.
TODAY MAMA AND I WAKE UP REALLY EARLY BECAUSE...
PAPA IS HOME.
At first the child is frightened by his newly returned father, big and unfamiliar in his beard and bushy hair. But after a shave and haircut, he is Papa again. He pitches in to make the holiday treat, sticky rice balls, and hides a coin inside one of them. That night the little one falls asleep safe and secure, between her two quietly whispering parents. And in the morning, there are rice balls for breakfast, and in one of her sticky balls she finds the coin, the good luck coin that brings fortune all year.
"PUT IT IN YOUR POCKET QUICK, MAOMAO," SAYS PAPA, "SO THAT THE GOOD LUCK WON'T ESCAPE!"
Special activities fill the day--a snowball fight with her friends, helping Papa make repairs, even up on the forbidden roof, where she sees the approaching Dragon Parade. Down to the street the two run, and on Papa's tall shoulders, she sees the New Year's dragon dance past, down her own street. Papa dresses Maomao in the new jacket he has brought and the family goes out to call upon friends and family. It is a wonderful day, until she discovers that her coin is missing from her pocket. Maomao is disconsolate, until suddenly, her fortune returns:
I BAWL, BUT AS I TAKE OFF MY JACKET, CLINK!
IT'S THE COIN!
But the next morning it is again time for Papa to leave for the faraway land where he works. Maomao tries to be brave, and when it is time for him to leave, she reaches in her pocket.
I PUT THE COIN, ALL WARM FROM BEING IN MY HAND, IN
"HERE, TAKE THIS, PAPA. NEXT TIME YOU ARE BACK, WE CAN HIDE IT IN
THE RICE BALLS AGAIN."
It is a covenant meant to be kept in Yu Li-Quong's simple but poignant story of Chinese New Year, A New Year's Reunion: A Chinese Story (Candlewick, 2011), one that points up the real meaning of family holiday traditions. Yu's art uses full-page color and evocative, textless double-page spreads to press home his theme in this setting of a stoic but devoted family.
Yu's book was named one of the ten best illustrated books of 2011 by the New York Times. The entire list, including many titles reviewed here can be seen by following this link.