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Mao and Me
Written and illustrated by Chen Jiang HongBuy Now
About the Book
From the acclaimed creator of The Magic Horse of Han Gan and Little Eagle comes his first autobiographical book, a magnificently illustrated story of growing up in Communist China that was two years (or perhaps we should say a whole lifetime) in the making.
Combining his elegant style of traditional Chinese painting with elements of Japanese anime, Chen has created a visually stunning tableau. His most personal book thus far, Mao and Me recounts his childhood, telling us much about China’s Cultural Revolution in the process. This work is therefore both an intimate portrait as well as the story of a family subjected to the larger forces of history.
The story opens in 1966 when Chen is three. At breakfast one morning, the family hears over the radio that Mao will use his Red Guard to launch a Cultural Revolution. And he does, drastically affecting the daily life of every person in China.
Richly description and elegiac, Mao and Me is a remembrance of childhood and a recognition of how tightly the past cleaves to us.
Awards and Reviews
Skipping Stone Award 2010
Selected for the 2009/2010 Great Lakes Great Books Award ballot for grades 6–8.
Editor's Choice Award, Library Media Connection
"Chen Jiang Hong was a small boy when this tumultuous period began, and in these illustrated pages he captures the bewildering cruelties wreaked on the people of his neighborhood in a northern Chinese city. [...] What makes this memoir especially interesting - and thought-provoking - is the way Chen conveys the consuming political hysteria of the time: Having witnessed the awful acts on Mao's cultural shock troops, the boy was nonetheless thrilled when, at 8, he was finally old enough to wear the armband of the Little Red Guard." - Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal
“In its excellence in representing political upheaval through the eyes of a child, this book belongs next to Peter Sís’s The Wall; in its directness, next to the work of Allen Say. The indefatigable energy of Chen’s brush, though, is all his own.” – Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"This powerful work joins [the] growing list of outstanding memoirs about the ear." - School Library Journal, Starred Review
"The beautifully detailed, somber ink and watercolor paintings vibrantly capture 1960s China from a child's perspective, and the generous page size allows Chen free reign in laying out and sequencing his images: half a dozen small paintings of ration tickets and scarce foodstuffs along the top of one page, for example, or a dizzying panorama of crowds at a rally sprawling across two others. The prose is lean and elegant, but the story it recounts is hardly bedtime material. With this intensely personal family history, Chen moves into Art Spiegelman territory, marking Mao and Me as a Cultural Revolution counterpart to Maus, slighter and more understated but with a similar emotional punch." - Jing Daily
"Chen is only three years old when Chairman Mao initiates the Cultural Revolution in China. The youngest member of his extended family, Chen notes the highlights of the monumental changes that he doesn’t truly comprehend; he recalls wearing a picture of Mao around his neck, the destruction of family photographs, the public burning of books and art.
For ten years, as Chen grows, the Cultural Revolution informs and shapes every aspect of life. While the story is told as a matter of facts, there is no mistaking the terror that takes root in Chen’s family and throughout his neighborhood.
Between pictures and prose lies the profound story of fear, loss, and acceptance, all couched in a veneer of patriotism. With all this, however, Chen’s story reminds us that while change is inevitable, there are those anchors that continue as monuments to who we are and what is truly important.
Chen Jiang Hong combines his skills as author and illustrator in this exquisite tale of his own childhood in China. Through simple prose and traditional Chinese style of art, the author reveals seemingly innocent details of a child’s life during the Cultural Revolution. The underlying story is both revealing and heartbreaking, its elegant subtlety drawing shivers down the reader’s spine.
Marketed as a children’s book, Mao and Me is so much more than an entertaining story. The watercolor illustrations set the tone for the narrative, their crisp details a sharp contrast to the spare words that reveal the tragedy of the larger story. This is a book that should be read by parents and children together, so that the unspoken history can be elaborated. Mao and Me, while describing life at a particular time in a particular place, is also a cautionary tale for every culture and generation." - Deborah Adams, Curled Up With a Good Kid's Book