Review of Little Leap Forward
Little Leap Forward
Written by: Guo Yue and Clare Farrow
Illustrated by: Helen Cann
As featured in the New York Times Sunday Book Review!
The first in Barefoot Books' Young Fiction line, this sensitively written, real-life story focuses on growing up in Beijing in the 1960s, at the time of the Cultural Revolution. Little Leap Forward offers children an intimate and immediate account of a child’s experiences as Mao Tse Tung’s Great Leap Forward policy tightens its grip on China.
Guo Yue's Story
Books let me know there's another world! There is an unprecedented interest in China right now with the Summer Olympic Games going on. Watch and listen to "Little Leap Forward" author Guo Yue share his story of growing up during China's cultural revolution.
An interesting tidbit about this video: Guo Yue provides the beautiful flute music that accompanies his spoken account.
Little Leap Forward is Barefoot Books' very first Young Adult novel! It is beautiful story of friendship found and lost. Set in the time just before and during the Cultural Revolution, the Revolution does not dominate the story, making this book a great choice for young readers. The illustrations are beautiful and the descriptions of life in the hutongs vividly convey family life in the unique Beijing neighborhoods.
The afterward by Guo Yue provides excellent historical context for teachers who want to use this book as part of a unit on modern China or the Cultural Revolution. A refreshing addition to young adult literature of the Cultural Revolution!
“One of the many pleasures of this moving story…is its depiction of how a musical child experiences the world as a symphony of sounds. The warm wash of color and the textured detail in Helen Cann’s illustrations reinforce the novel’s pastiche of folk tale, parable and realism. Yue and Farrow… evoke how Little Leap Forward bears witness with the eye of a poet, the ear of a musician and the transformative imagination of a storyteller.” -The New York Times
"Little Leap Forward is a slim volume, handsomely illustrated and brimming with sensory details of a Beijing neighborhood in the summer of 1966, just as the Cultural Revolution was taking a violent turn... The authors gently contrast the children's appreciation of color and music and history with Mao's determined stance against individuality... Helen Cann's illustrations likewise are delicate and detailed, finding beauty in the deep blues of everyone's clothing, the converted old temples and the roof tiles shaped like waves. "
-The Washington Post
“Guo and his wife, Clare Farrow, write about the Cultural Revolution with poignant understatement, underscored by the book's unassuming design. Many charming color-plates add cultural detail and a sense of playfulness to the diminutive package.” -San Francisco Chronicle
“The simple prose is quiet and physical, especially the details about feeling the power of music and holding the fragile bird and feeling its beating heart. The beautifully detailed, clear illustrations in ink and brilliant watercolors combine realistic group scenes with spare individual portraits. Kids will appreciate the messages about freedom in the caged-bird metaphor, especially because it is not heavily spelled out.” -Booklist
“Written with a well-judged level of detail, Little Leap Forward’s first person narrative is authentic in its allegiance to a child’s point of view, conveying a world of family, a best friend, kite-flying, and an ultimately futile attempt to cage a bird and make it sing. While the coming of the Red Guards provides the book with its larger context, it’s done without sacrificing the easy, intimate perspective that has drawn the book in the first place. ” -The Horn Book
"Living in a courtyard community of old Beijing, just before and after the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, Leap Forward is about 10 and still enjoying children's pleasures—kite flying, a pet—while the world around him is filling up with students shouting slogans. Leap Forward seems real, not a note card."
“This is a story that deepens with each rereading.”
"I love this book, because I asked the same question when I was a little girl, I was in tears for those birds who lost freedom and their mums."
-Xinran, best-selling author of The Good Women of China
Guo Yue grew up in Beijing at the time of the Cultural Revolution. He later studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London and is now a renowned flautist and composer whose music is published by Peter Gabriel's Real World Label, Cultural Revolution. He is also an excellent cook and teaches at the renowned Divertimenti Cookery School in London.
Clare Farrow is a writer and journalist specializing in modern contemporary art. She has published interviews with Anish Kapoor and Annie Leibovitz.
Helen Cann enjoys using patterns in her artwork and she has a large collection of reference material from around the world, taken from textiles, ceramics,jewelry.
I hope you enjoy both the video and the book!
Read Alone: Ages 8-14
Read Together: Ages 8-14
Hardcover; Full color illustrations