Monday, May 14, 2012

Crouching Tiger

Horn Book (January/February, 2012)

Vinson is his American name, but his grandfather, visiting from China, calls him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. As Grandpa practices tai chi each morning, Ming Da secretly wishes to see him perform more exciting kung fu moves. Calm and unflappable, Grandpa teaches his impatient grandson the slow, careful exercises, and eventually he and Ming Da play a pivotal role in the annual Chinese New Year parade. Realistic, luminous watercolor illustrations, punctuated by straight suburban streets and houses, show the family's balance of the Chinese and the American, the traditional and the modern. For instance, they eat an American breakfast while Grandpa is visible through the window practicing tai chi outdoors. As Ming Da feels the tension between his desire for flashy martial arts and the reality of tai chi, Nascimbene leaves strategic distance between grandfather and grandson. When Ming Da commits himself to the difficult and sometimes tedious job of practicing the standing meditation, that distance lessens: after the New Year's celebration, as Grandpa and Ming Da hold hands in the sparkling night, their shadows join as one. A fascinating view into the world of martial arts and what the older generation can offer the skeptical younger one. Spot drawings of the tai chi poses will be appreciated by practitioners of all ages. robin l. smith

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