Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Red Kite, Blue Kite

Red Kite, Blue Kite

Ji-li Jiang
Illustrator:  Greg Ruth 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Hyperion Books, 2013   ISBN: 978-1423127536

One of Tai Shan’s favorite things to do is to go to the “tippy-top” of the roof of his house with his Baba to fly kites. Tai Shan’s kite is a small red one, and his father’s is a big blue one. As they fly their kites together Baba tells his son stories, stories that make their time together on the roof particularly special. Up there flying his kite Tai Shan feels as free as the kite that is flying above his head.

   Then “a bad time” comes and Tai Shan’s life is turned upside down. Schools are closed and Baba is sent to work at a labor camp. Since Tai Shan’s mother died when Tai Shan was born, the little boy is sent to stay in a village with a farmer called Granny Wang. Though Granny Wang is kind to Tai Shan, the little boy misses his father whom he sees only one day a week, on Sunday. Every Sunday Baba walks for miles from his camp to the village where Tai Shan is living, and on this one day the father and son fly their kites as they used to do.

   Then one day Tai Shan’s father tells his son that he will not be able to visit for a while. To stay connected to his son Tai Shan’s father comes up with a plan. Tai Shan should fly his red kite every morning, and his father will fly his blue kite every sunset. Their kites will be their own private “secret signal.”

   Day after day the two kites send their messages of love to Tai Shan and his Baba even though they are miles apart. Then one day Baba’s blue kite does not appear.

   Based on a true story about a boy and his father during China’s Cultural Revolution, this evocative picture book beautifully captures the power that hope can have on people during hard times. At such times, small things, like red and blue kites, come to represent something precious.

   With a memorable story and lovely illustrations, this picture book gives readers an experience that they will remember long after the last page is read.