Red Kite, Blue Kite is a lovely story that takes place during the Cultural Revolution in China. Tai Shan loves to fly kites from the rooftop with his father, Baba. Tai Shan’s is red and Baba’s is blue.
One day, Baba is arrested:
“Then, a bad time comes. My school is shut down. Soon all the schools are shut down. People wearing red armbands smash store signs and search houses. Men and women are sent to labor camps to work.
Baba is one of them.”
Fortunately, Baba’s camp is not too far away, and for a while he can visit every Sunday. When he is no longer allowed to leave the camp, he proposes to Tai Shan that he fly his red kite every morning, and Baba will answer with his blue kite at sunset. Tai Shan loves the idea of sharing a secret signal, and flies his red kite in the morning:
“Before sunset, I go back to the hill and climb the elm tree. I wait and wait. Finally, Baba’s blue kite sways into the white clouds. The kite waves at me and whispers, ‘Here I am, my son.’”
But one day Baba’s kite doesn’t appear, and Tai Shan finds out Baba must be transferred far away. Baba now asks Tai Shan to fly both kites every day:
“When you fly our kites, know that I am looking at the same sky and thinking about you.”
Tai Shan flies the kites, and is happy:
“I smile with hope. Baba is watching. He is with me. We are above but still under, neither here nor there. We are free, like the kites.”
Finally, one sunny afternoon, Baba returns, and everyone in the village celebrates by flying kites.
Evaluation: I have to admit I was scared reading this book, because, having an adult’s knowledge of China during the Cultural Revolution, I was not optimistic! But the author based this story on the actual experience of a family friend whose father did survive. And I think most children will not be predisposed to be as pessimistic as I! For innocent children, this is a beautiful story of familial love and hope, and Greg Ruth’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are very appealing.
Published by Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group, 2013
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages