Red Kite, Blue Kiteby Ji-li Jiang (Author), Greg Ruth (Illustrator)
A tale of optimism
I first came across this book at Non Fiction Monday event hosted by a group of children’s literature bloggers. Perogyo’s lovely blog featured “Red Kite Blue Kite” as a celebration for Father’s Day this year. And since reading her review on the book, I have been waiting to read it myself.
“Red Kite, Blue Kite” is a story of a little boy, Tai Shan and his father, Baba and their love for flying kites. Their Red and Blue kites bob up and down, backwards and forwards. From the rooftops, the city looks small, the people look like ants. Up in the sky the kites fly free. Up on the rooftops, Tai Shan feels free. As they fly their kites, Baba tells Tai Shan stories.
But hard times are coming. The Cultural Revolution sweeps the country. Tai Shan’s school is shut down and he sees people wearing red armbands everywhere. Families are broken. Tai Shan is separated from his father.
Baba is sent to a labor camp and Tai Shan has to go live with a granny near the labor camp. Fortunately, Baba comes to visit Tai Shan every Sunday and then they climb the hills, fly their kites and forget about their worries. Baba tells Tai Shan stories that make him proud.
But soon things get worse and Baba is not able to visit Tai Shan anymore. As Tai Shan looks to the sky and flies his Red Kite every day, he wonders when he will be able to see his Baba again?
This is a beautiful poignant tale of family, a tale about parent and child bonding. The setting is a dark one, the Chinese Cultural Revolution was a time when millions of people were persecuted and a large number of population was displaced. But “Red Kite Blue Kite” focuses on hope, on optimism. It introduces an important event in history through Tai Shan’s point of view. Ji-li Jiang’s narrative is simple yet strong. Written in first person from Tai Shan’s point of view is an amazing way to engage an early reader into the tale.
Greg Ruth’s pen and watercolor illustrations feature realistic depiction of the events. The images keep the strong negative events in the background, highlighting the more positive aspects or emotions in the foreground.
It is easy to see why this book deserves merit. Whether you read it because it is a powerful tale about a father and son bond, or because it is about a historic event, you will be moved.