About the Book:
Title: Playing with Lanterns
Author: Wang Yage
Illustrator: Zhu Chengliang
Translator: Helen Wang
Pub. Date: January 11, 2022
Beagles and Books is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Playing with Lanterns published by Amazon Crossing Kids which aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Playing with Lanterns shares the age old New Year folk custom in the Shaanxi province of northwest China. On the third day of the fifteen day celebration, children begin receiving lanterns from their uncles. Chengliang’s warm and lively watercolor illustrations pairs perfectly with Wang’s smooth translation of Yage’s original text.
When Zhao Di gets her lantern, she excitedly joins her friends to show off her gift. I love this page spread which shows the beauty and uniqueness of each lantern. As the story continues, readers learn the tradition of walking around the village with their lanterns in hand. When Zhao Di’s candle goes out, her friends huddle around her to relit it.
On the fifteenth day, Zhao Di feels sad all day long. Is her gloomy disposition due to the end of Chinese New Year? At sundown, she and her friends join their village for the final celebration. The translated text reads “It was the LAST EVENING for lanterns.”
The friends share one last moment together with their lanterns before they hear the words “SMASH THE LANTERNS.” Zhao Di is not ready to say goodbye to her lantern but if she doesn’t smash it before the candle goes out, tradition says her uncle’s eyes will be red and sore from pink eye. While Zhao Di is depressed that her lantern is gone and the celebration is over, she is grateful for the memories and reminded that New Year returns every year.
While the lantern tradition will be new learning, kids will relate to Zhao Di’s range of emotions during a holiday celebration. I love how the author does not allow Zhao Di’s to dwell in her sadness, for she begins to feel excited knowing she will have the opportunity to celebrate again. And no surprise, I enjoyed seeing Zhao Di’s little dog in the illustrations as the pup accompanied her in all the festivities. At the end of the story, an author’s note provides more specific information about the tradition of “Smashing Lanterns.” With its gentle text and expressive illustrations, I highly recommend Playing with Lanterns as a read aloud to teach kids about Chinese New Year.
Praise for Playing with Lanterns!
“A colorful wintry tale ushers in Chinese New Year over two weeks…A charming illustration of childhood memories during the holiday season.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Quiet, elegant passages stud the text…Tenderly detailed gouache paintings by Zhu render the children as small, patterned bundles frolicking against expanses of snow…A quiet celebration of a Northwestern Chinese tradition.” ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author:
Wang Yage was born in Shaanxi, a central and historical province of China, where the custom of playing with lanterns was once a popular Chinese New Year tradition. A doctor of classical Chinese literature, she teaches at the University of Tibet. Playing with Lanterns is her first picture book. First published in China, the book made the prestigious White Ravens international book list.
About the Illustrator:
Zhu Chengliang is an award-winning Chinese illustrator. Born in Shanghai and raised in Suzhou, he studied at the Department of Fine Art, Nanjing University, and has worked as an author, illustrator, editor, and designer. He was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016, which is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children’s books. His books have been named one of the Ten Best Illustrated Books by the New York Times and to the IBBY Honor List.
About the Translator:
Helen Wang is a writer and translator from the UK. In 2017 she was given a Special Contributor of the Year honor as part of the Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Awards for her work in bringing Chinese children’s literature to English-speaking audiences. Wang has translated novels, picture books, and graphic novels, including Cao Wenxuan’s Bronze and Sunflower, which won the Marsh Christian Award for Children’s Literature in Translation.