Christy Ottaviano/Little, Brown/. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316340731.
K-Gr 3–This insightful picture book begins with an introduction to the oracle bone inscriptions which are believed to be the origins of Chinese characters and then efficiently introduces Lulu, her wise grandpa, and Dumpling, her devoted dog. The story unfolds through Lulu's lively speech bubbles. Imagination, adventure, and art collide while Grandpa is napping. As he sleeps, Lulu, brush in hand, draws a door which begins to glow. Unable to resist, she enters and discovers a pictograph world replete with friendly people, interesting landscapes, and a dangerous Chinese fire dragon. In a book that will be compared to Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon and Aaron Becker’s Journey, readers are plunged into an enchanted world where drawing skills and creative problem-solving hold the key to a favorable outcome. The illustrations—a blend of watercolor, colored pencils, and traditional Chinese ink—capture the essence of the tale. Readers are introduced to the featured Chinese characters depicted in red boxes on each page with their English meanings, providing an opportunity to explore both language and culture. The story serves as a heartwarming reminder of the power of resourcefulness and kindness, ultimately conveying the message that these virtues can save the day even in the most unusual circumstances. The author’s note provides context concerning the vastness of the Chinese written language, highlighting the existence of over 50,000 characters, encouraging an appreciation of the rich cultural heritage embedded in the narrative.
VERDICT A masterful integration of storytelling, an introduction to a complex language, and cross-cultural understanding make this an excellent addition to any elementary library.

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