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Saturday, December 3, 2011

A New Year's Reunion, written by Yu Li-Qiong and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $18.00 ages 4 and up

"On the second day of New Year's, the sky is gloomy, and it looks as if it's going to snow. Papa gets busy fixing the windows, painting the door, and changing the lightbulbs - and the whole house brightens up."

As we begin the preparations that lead to an annual family celebration for many, it is imperative to remind ourselves just how blessed we are. At the end of this glorious book the author adds a note that helps us realize it is so:

"The family in this book is a fictional one, but there are in reality over 100 million migrant workers in China., many of whom work hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles away from home, returning only once each year, for just a few days, at New Year's."

Maomao is part of one such family. When her Papa returns home for his yearly visit, she barely recognizes the bearded man who has been away from her for so long. As Papa settles in (a trip to the barber helps), life becomes happy once again. He brings gifts for both Mama and Maomao. More importantly, he helps with preparations for the celebration. It is in these little things each day...lights and decorations for the house, making sticky rice balls together (one with a coin that is sure to bring good luck), sharing the comfort of a family bed, visiting friends and family, catching up on household chores and watching the dragon dance...that the family finds contentment and comfort.

When Maomao discovers that she has lost the fortune coin (which she earlier found in her sticky rice ball). she is heartbroken. Nothing soothes her until the coin falls out of her pocket and lands beside her bed. Upon awakening the following morning, she helps Papa pack once more, offering her coin to the gentle man she loves so. They will use it again next time Papa is home.

To say that the exceptional artwork plays a role in the telling is a colossal understatement. Zhu Cheng-Liang's illustrations bring light and life to the family's loving bond. Children will pore over the details that are included on every page, all the while knowing the love shared as Mama, Papa and Maomao celebrate being together while welcoming a new year.

January 23, 2012.....Xin Nian Kuai Le! and Gong Hey Fat Choy!

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