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Summary: Little Leap Forward grew up in Beijing, China. His father was a musician, and his family lived in a courtyard with other musicians and their families. Leap Forward tells the story of his life as a boy, including times with his best friend Little-Little, learning to write, learning to play the flute, and helping his mother and sisters. He also shows how the Cultural Revolution changed his life. This is a lightly illustrated novel about a boy growing up in China in 1966.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 12; read yourself: 10 to 13
Interest Level: 9 and up
Reading Level: 5.5
Age of Child: Reviewed by a student at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.
Young Reader Reaction: I picked this book because I've been interested in China. I wanted to learn a little more about the country. liked this book mostly because it was from a child's perspective, so it made more sense than it probably would have if it was from an adult's perspective. It was very informational and I learned many things from it. From the first chapter on I thought it was interesting, and it told much of China's history and how they were told to live. I would read this book again.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a nicely written story. Yue's memoir is truly brought to life by the beautiful illustrations that help you visualize his imagery. Although the jacket flap works to remind readers that the story is set amid Mao's Cultural Revolution (mid 1960s), I found it difficult to extract the "haunting story" described there.
Pros: Middle grade readers will find this an interesting story about a young boy. The story offers them the opportunity to contrast/compare their own lives with someone "about their age." Student reviewer: The book gives tons of information. It would be a really good bookto use for a report.
Cons: The author tries to suspend his story in time, with minimal context on what is happening around him. For readers unfamiliar with Chairman Mao or the Cultural Revolution, some of the activities Yue describes will have no meaning. Student reviewer: I did not find any cons in this book.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a lovely story. Student reviewer: Buy. I would buy this book because it has information about china in the 1960s. It would be something I would want my grandchildren to read to see how different the world was or if it has always been that way.
Educational Themes: Although the principal focus of the story would be to discuss growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, there are other themes to explore, too: self discovery, poetry, Chinese music, kite flying, and communal life. This is also an effective book to use in discussing memoirs and biography.