High on my list of great things about the city is the rich diversity. Say what you will about the country, you are unlikely to encounter in a week the variety of cultures that you will see in 5 minutes on the subway. Needless to say, such diversity in close quarters sometimes results in the clash of cultures. However, when people from different backgrounds come together, well.... at the risk of sounding ridiculous..... it's a beautiful thing.
In Bruce Edward Hall's Henry and the Kite Dragon, the city is once again the backdrop for rival groups. Not the Sharks and Jets, but the the kids from Little Italy and the kids in Chinatown. Henry and his Grandfather Chin make beautiful kites, but when they fly near some pigeons, rocks bring the kites down. When Henry and his friends discover the culprits are boys from Little Italy, their first instinct is to "go down there and fight, them." Grandfather Chin, being the wise man that he is, instead suggests they try a different tactic. When they fly their new, splendid dragon kite in the park where the rivals also congregate everyone discovers the source of the trouble and together they find a solution.
I like that this book shows two disparate groups coming together in cooperation and acceptance without being didactic. I also appreciated the quiet but strong presence of the older generation. William Low's illustrations give wonderful perspectives of the city, making the crowded streets of Chinatown, the sweeping rooftop views and green park spaces dramatic and appealing. The story is based on events in 1920 (there is brief note at the start of the book) and the colors and textures of the paintings easily transport us back in time, while still conveying the timelessness of the city.
This would be a good book to read with Chinese New Year on the horizon (as will my next review... stay tuned).
Big Kid says: I liked that one.