Little Leap Forward: A Boy In Beijing

Beijing 2008, Outdoor theme parkImage by sHzaam! via Flickr
I'm back from a wonderful vacation in San Francisco! With all the food markets, brightly colored lanterns and bags of fresh ginger for sale, I immediately thought of the children's book, Little Leap Forward: A Boy In Beijing. Yes, awhile back I wrote a review for this wonderful hardcover book written by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow. Read more at

This book is recommended most highly for its carefully crafted story and its portrayal of a momentous and chaotic period of China's history from a child's point of view. The accompanying art work by Helen Cann is superb in its own right, speaks volumes about the historical backdrop and the main character's roles in his family and community. The book is a treasure.

I read Little Leap Forward when there was an unprecedented interest in China with the Summer Olympic Games going on. I was most impressed with the beautiful details in story line and with ornate artwork. Teachers will want to use this book as part of a unit on modern China or the Cultural Revolution. Little Leap Forward is a great choice for the young reader because it has poetry, music and story telling. Congratulations to Barefoot's first "young fiction line.
Product Details
* Reading level: Ages 9-12
* Hardcover: 128 pages
* Publisher: Barefoot Books; 1 edition (July 21, 2008)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 1846861144
Here's what other Mom's say:
Page-turner, Well-written, Diversity, Educational, Multicultural, Bedtime, Great illustrations, colorful, fiction
Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 3–6—Living in Beijing with their large, loving families, Little Leap Forward and Little-Little are the best of friends. One day clever Little-Little captures a small yellow bird that he gives to Little Leap Forward. Though Little Leap Forward plays his flute and tries to get Little Cloud to sing, she remains silent. When the terrible disruptions of the Cultural Revolution begin, Little Leap Forward senses the fear and sadness of his friends and family. And as their lives become more and more constricted, he begins to understand why he must release his precious bird if he wants to hear her sing. Based on Guo's childhood, this is a gentle, lyrical story, yet the undercurrents of change and loss are strong. Though the metaphor of the bird is part of the fabric of the tale, the author never becomes moralistic or didactic, and the horrors of the Revolution never overwhelm the story. Because of this, the novel is suitable for readers younger than those who might pick up Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997), Chun Yu's Little Green (S & S, 2005), or Moying Li's Snow Falling in Spring (Farrar, 2008). The afterword includes a brief, accessible explanation of the Cultural Revolution. As a final plus, the book is beautifully designed. Kites, an important element in the story, are used on the elegant endpapers, and numerous illustrations, full of jewel-toned colors, are scattered throughout. In every way, this is a book to savor.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA
From Booklist
Based on Guo Yue’s childhood in China in the 1960s, this small, illustrated chapter book tells the moving story of eight-year-old Leap Forward, who lives in a poor area of Beijing that is so crowded that “you had to look up and up to see the sky.” He cages a tiny wild bird and plays music on his flute, trying to persuade her to sing, but the bird remains silent until Leap Forward's friend persuades him to release her, and she flies free. Always in the background are the politics of the Cultural Revolution, the stories of people in prison, and the family’s daily struggle. 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. Grades 3-6. --Hazel Rochman
Can you imagine a life where music is illegal? A great first time chapter book that won't overwhelm a younger reader ready for a more challenging read. The book breathes of culture and tradition. Recommended for ages 8 and up.
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