Playing with Lanterns (Wang Yage)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Playing with Lanterns, written by Wang Yage, illustrated by Zhu Chengliang, and translated by Helen Wang, a sweet tale of tradition and celebration.

While the first two days of the New Year are delightful in Zhao Di’s snow-covered northern village, she most looks forward to the fifth day, when her uncle gives her a paper lantern, as is tradition, to celebrate with. Zhao Di loves her lantern, and spends the next ten days of the new year inseparable from it: showing it off with friends, protecting it from troublemaking boys, taking care to keep the candle lit in the wind and cold. On the last day of New Years, when the lanterns are smashed for luck, Zhao Di does so with a touch a sadness. This bittersweet feeling lingers until the next morning, when she mourns the end of the New Years celebrations. Still, she cheers herself with the happy memories of playing with her lantern, and the knowledge that she’ll have another New Year to celebrate, next year.

Charming. This Chinese import is a fantastic cultural immersion into a New Year celebration in the Shaanxi province, told through the playful and wondering viewpoint of a child. Yage’s simple story is well-translated by Wang to create a narrative that is wonderfully engaging, balancing the recognizable with the novel to let the reader feel like part of the celebration, even if they are not immediately familiar with the specific traditions. Chengliang’s gouache illustrations have the same comforting feel, one of innocence and awe that perfectly captures Zhao Di’s perspective. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed the artwork, especially comparing what she could recognize (snowy landscapes and bundled-up children) with what was new to her (Chinese banners and lantern games). Overall, this was a lovely and unique title, and we enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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