Thursday, January 13, 2022

Blog Tour: Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated by Helen Wang

Playing with Lanterns by Wang Yage,
illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, translated by Helen Wang
Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022, 40 pages

The 15 day Lunar New Year celebration is right around the corner (February 1, 2022) and what better way to prepare for and enjoy it than with this charming book based on a New Year tradition enjoyed by children in Shaanxi Province, China. Traditionally, on the first day of the new year, families stay at home and celebrate together. On the second day, even though it is usually cold and snowy in the northern village where young Zhao Di lives, it doesn't deter anyone from going out and visiting with family and friends, a very impart of the Lunar New Year.

On the third day of the New Year, uncles give their nieces and nephews lanterns. This year, Zhao Di's uncle gives her an accordion shaped lantern complete with a bunch of candles to light the dark evening throughout the New Year observance. Now, she can join the other kids carrying their own bright lanterns. 

There are lanterns is all different shapes and colors, and everyone must be careful not to let their candle go out when the wind blows. When some rowdy boys charge Zhao Di and her friends, they hold their lanterns high until the boys run off. Zhao Di and her friends have fun walking through their village with their lit lanterns every night for the rest of of the New Year, but before they know it, the fifteenth and last day has arrived. Zhao Di wakes up to the sound of fireworks popping and cracking. That night she lights her lantern and heads out to join her friends for the last time. They form a circle and sing a lantern song as they follow tradition and smash their lanterns before the candles go out, then letting them burn to ash.
According to the Author's Note, smashing the lanterns is a folk tradition in Shaanxi province that dates back as far as the Han Dynasty  (202 BCE-220 CE) but, if the candle goes out before the lantern is smashed, the uncle who gave it to his niece or nephew will develop pink eye in the coming year.

Playing with Lanterns is such a delightful look at one child's experience of this important holiday. The author has really captured Zhao Di's anticipation at the coming New Year, her excitement at being a part of it and playing with lanterns with her friends despite the cold and snow, and her sadness at the end of the 15 days and the loss of her lantern mixed in with good memories of the time, and her happiness as she remembers that there will be another New Year next year. 

Complimenting the text are Zhu Chengliang's colorful engaging gouache illustrations. Not only do they express the range of emotions and feelings that the  kids have, but they also give some insight into the kind of life Zhao Di lives. And, as you can see, she has dressed the children in bright clothing as they carry equally brightly colored lanterns, a nice contrasts to the darkness of the night sky and the silvery whiteness of the snow.  
And I loved that Zhao Di's puppy dog celebrates throughout the 15 days of Lunar New Year. with her. 

Reviews of Playing with Lanterns:

“A colorful wintry tale ushers in Chinese New Year over two weeks…A charming illustration of childhood memories during the holiday season.” Kirkus Reviews

“Quiet, elegant passages stud the text…Tenderly detailed gouache paintings by Zhu render the children as small, patterned bundles frolicking against expanses of snow…A quiet celebration of a Northwestern Chinese tradition.” Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author: Wang Yage was born in Shaanxi, a central and historical province of China, where the custom of playing with lanterns was once a popular Chinese New Year tradition. A doctor of classical Chinese literature, she teaches at the University of Tibet. Playing with Lanterns is her first picture book. First published in China, the book made the prestigious White Ravens international book list.

Meet the Illustrator: Zhu Chengliang is an award-winning Chinese illustrator. Born in Shanghai and raised in Suzhou, he studied at the Department of Fine Art, Nanjing University, and has worked as an author, illustrator, editor, and designer. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016, which is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children's books. His books have been named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books by the New York Times and to the IBBY Honor List.

Meet the Translator: Helen Wang is a writer and translator from the UK. In 2017 she was given a Special Contributor of the Year honor as part of the Chen Bochui International Children's Literature Awards for her work in bringing Chinese children’s literature to English-speaking audiences. Wang has translated novels, picture books, and graphic novels, including Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, which won the Marsh Christian Award for Children’s Literature in Translation.

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

This book was gratefully received from Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media

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