Little White Duck: A Childhood in China
By Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez
Published 2012 by Graphic Universe
The world Da Qin has known is changing rapidly. Her country's beloved leader, Chairman Mao, has died and things will now be very different for Da Qin and her little sister, Xiao Qin. Through a series of vignettes, Da Qin shows readers how things changed for her family.
I'm a big fan of graphic novels and I especially enjoy non-fiction graphic novels - it's really interesting to me to see how true material will translate into the sequential art format. I was especially curious about non-fiction for children - what would a non-fiction graphic novel for a younger audience look like? This book has been receiving a number of positive reviews and even some Newbery buzz, so I definitely wanted to check it out. When it came across our new book cart, I quickly picked it up and devoured it.
I like that Liu has chosen to present her memoir as a series of vignettes - I can't stand when a book doesn't have chapters and the vignette set up mirrors the idea of chapters in a less intrusive way than actual chapters would. I also enjoyed that this focused on a very small period of Liu's life - kids will more easily relate to her childhood because that's all they see here. It gives the memoir a narrow focus that feels natural; we are not learning her whole life story, just her childhood, a period of great change. It will be easy for kids to compare and contrast Liu's childhood with their own as it is rendered so clearly and sharply. I'm willing to admit that I know very little about Asian history, so it was fascinating for me to read about all the changes China was going through this time period. Seeing them through the lens of Liu's childhood made it very easy to see how jarring these changes must have been to China's citizens. The artwork complements Liu's story nicely; I like the heavy black outlines and the softer, muted colors used. It hearkens very much to both nature and the military and works exceptionally well with Liu's story. Overall, I thought this was a wonderfully done graphic memoir. I hope kids pick it up.