Ying Chang Compestine grew up in China and now lives in California with her husband and son. She is the author of the young adult story collection A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts, as well as several picture books for children and cookbooks for adults.
Gr 4-6-This story takes place in Wuhan from 1972 to '76, during the waning years of the Cultural Revolution. Nine-year-old Ling's doctor parents see their friends fall victim to the Red Guard and eventually they, too, suffer betrayal, job loss, hunger, and incarceration. Ling fears the cutting of her long (bourgeois) hair; she vows to keep it as an act of defiance, but loses it to lice instead. The simple sentences, episodic structure, and child's perspective convey just enough context of this complicated period to inform readers without bogging down the narrative. Ling's experiences (based on the author's own) seem authentic as she worries about her father's disappearance and tangles with school bullies, before the satisfying conclusion. This novel will introduce children to a time and place likely to have an exotic allure, while Ling's affection for her father and slightly tense relations with her mother humanize her and help readers empathize with her plight.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Picture book and cookbook author Compestine (The Real Story of Stone Soup) turns to 1972 China as the setting for her first YA novel. Eight-year-old Ling, the spunky daughter of two doctors, lives in Wuhan, China; dreamy and idealistic, she often describes her world in metaphor (about her neighbor, Ling notes, "Mrs. Wong was fragrant and warm like a red peony, which always welcomed visitors"). But the lives of Ling and her family are disrupted when Comrade Li, an officer of the Communist Party, moves into their apartment. Difficulties mount as friends and neighbors disappear, Ling's father is arrested and she endures vicious tormenting at school because of her "bourgeois" background ("At times I wished my family was poor and my parents worked on a vegetable farm... so I could have friends. But if my parents worked on a farm, who would treat their patients?"). Although her father has been jailed, her family starved and their books burned, Ling fights to keep her long hair, a symbol of dignity and individualism to her, though her classmates see it as emblematic of Ling's "privilege." Ling survives on wit, hope and courage until the death of Chairman Mao, after which she and her mother have a joyful reunion with Ling's father. Readers should remain rapt by Compestine's storytelling throughout this gripping account of life during China's Cultural Revolution. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"* Readers should remain rapt by Compestine's storytelling throughout this gripping account of life during China's Cultural Revolution." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review"Laced in all the right places with humor, fury, fear, resolve and eventual relief, her childlike voice is carefully maintained over the sweep of four years--candid and credible, naive and nuanced." --San Francisco Chronicle"This child's-eye view of the Chinese Cultural Revolution is ultimately a tale of survival; lyrical yet gripping, accessible and memorable, it's based on the author's experiences. Certain to inspire discussion about freedom and justice." --Kirkus Reviews"Authentic. . . . This semi-autobiographical novel comes alive with the author's rich descriptions of the sights and smells of China at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution." --School Library Journal"In clipped lyrical sentences, Compestine's first-person narrative sets a naive child's struggle to survive against betrayal and courage in one neighborhood and also the political panorama of spies and slogans." --Booklist"Compestine does a good job giving young YA readers a realistic picture of what that period of history meant to individuals caught in the political nightmare. Certainly those with a Chinese heritage will find the story important to understand their own family history." --KLIATT"Beautifully descriptive phrases allow this autobiographical fiction to come alive with the colors of the clothing that are lovingly sewn for Ling, the aromatic preparations of the food that is cooked, and the genuine appreciation of school, work, and valued neighbors. . . . The simple narrative is [refreshing] . . . in its youthful disbelief of the hardships that have befallen them in a changing political situation." --Voice of Youth Advocates