New Year (a Lunar New Year Book for Kids) has a mature theme. Even the description of this book from the publisher uses words that set the tone of the book. It says it is a “moving…cride Coeur” and “dislocation is countered by acceptance…” and “Chinese diaspora.” Huh? I just wanted a nice book about the Chinese New Year.
I mean, it is a nice book that Mei Zihan has created, but well over the head of most picture book readers. I went farther along in the publisher description (mind you this was all after I had read the book) and see it is aimed at ages “nine to eighteen.” Um…. yeah. Sorry, I know kids and no nine to teen is going to want to read this. At best, this is a read-aloud for the classroom. And then you have the teens who will be more than likely not to (sadly) care. If you tell a teen that they should read it to help a report, maybe they would use as a resource, but I do not know.
The story is told from the point of view of the father of a young woman who is now living in France. The tone is insightful and thoughtful. The father bounces between feelings of selfishness of wanting his daughter back as a child, back home again to celebrate the new year and their culture to knowing his daughter is grown, has a husband and is celebrating her new world, and her new life. He shows love throughout both feelings. The contrasts are appropriate for the idea of wanting family but also knowing you “did good” and raised a “good kid” but it might be hard for kids to appreciate.
The ideas presented reflect the idea of today’s current situation. We are separated by the pandemic, and yes, people are no longer living in the same villages/towns they grew up in. It might not be as extreme as moving from China to France, but we do understand not having grandma there for Christmas, or your cousins for your birthday.
It is Qin Leng’s illustrations that bring an interesting tone to things. They are whimsical in their almost airy form. The colors are muted, but still manage to pop through letting your eyes know that there are there. A dream like quality shows how the story is memory and current events. They are sophisticated and yet, not overly pretentious. Overall, they are cozy and yet, you cannot get comfortable with them. You must view them, watch the details, see what is and is not there.