Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Double Happiness, written by Nancy Tupper Ling and illustrated by Alina Chau. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 5 and up
I placed memories
inside a special box.
Always, it was near me.
Together you can make
Here's my gift to you -
a box of your own,
so happiness will stay close
no matter where you go."
When the two children pictured on the cover of this emotional poetic tale of moving away from family and familiarity are making preparations for the coming change, a visit with their beloved Nai Nai is an occasion to celebrate. Of course, they are worried. They know nothing about their new home, and everything about San Francisco where they have always lived surrounded by their extended Chinese family.
Their grandmother's gift has a caveat:
"Find four treasures each,
leading from this home
to your new."
As they travel, the children keep Nai Nai's instructions in mind. Gracie takes the panda she loves from her grandmother's collection. Jake finds a penny, and Gracie a eucalyptus leaf on their bus ride home. At the airport, Jake finds an old stick of gum in his backpack, rolls it into a snake and now has the same number of treasures as his sister does - two! They each receive a set of wings from the pilot who flies them to their new home so far away. A reminder of their trip toward a new life. There is so much to remember and not much yet to anticipate.
It isn't long until they have made peace with the move, and grow to love the snowy landscapes, the lonely train whistle, their new rooms, and the never forgotten connections to all that they have left to make a new life together as a family.
The poetry is warm and inviting, despite the hint of sadness. These are much-loved children who have a strong heritage to envelop them as they move on to new adventure. The beautifully drawn images add a very personal tone, filled with the details of their life in San Francisco and the emotions felt as they come to terms with leaving the old, and arriving at the new. Chinese characters and symbols are evident throughout adding charm and context. The book itself is beautifully designed and produced, a testament to the talents of the folks at Chronicle Books.