After reading Crouching Tiger written by Ying Chang Compestine with gorgeous gouaches by Yan Nascimbene ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 6-10) I can truly appreciate the beauty and spectacle that is the Chinese New Year. According to the author’s note in the book’s end pages, the Chinese New Year usually falls sometime between January and February, lasts for 15 days and is based on the lunar calendar like the Jewish holidays.
A book that brings generations together, Crouching Tiger focuses on the relationship between a young Chinese-American boy and his grandfather visiting from China. Vinson (aka Ming Da) is curious about his grandfather’s daily practice of tai chi, an ancient martial art that the author tells us is more about inner-body strength rather than something like kung fu which is more about fighting and self defense. Unable to get the knack of the discipline involved in learning tai chi, Vinson grew bored with his grandfather and “As the week passed, I felt cheated. Maybe Grandpa didn’t know real kung fu.” He even began feeling slightly embarrassed in his grandfather’s presence.
However it’s not long before there’s a shift in his attitude due to an unexpected incident that has got Vinson eager to revisit tai chi with the help of his grandpa. At the New Year parade in Chinatown Vinson experiences all the joy and excitement the celebration brings as he is honored with the role of cabbage boy in the Lion dancers’ performance. Instead of avoiding tai chi, Vinson now embraces it due to his grandfather’s patience and wisdom. “I promise I will practice harder,” Vinson says to his grandfather as they head for home when the parade has ended. You can be certain he will!
This Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review book is ideal to read with the approaching Chinese New Year, but it also shows children that while they may know a lot about electronics, there is still a lot their elders can teach them that is both interesting and enjoyable.
CROUCHING TIGER. Text copyright © 2011 by Ying Chang Compestine. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Yan Nascimbene. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.