Jasmine’s grandfather comes to live in their house, and teaches Jasmine to create magical worlds with calligraphy while her little brother Tai-Tai is napping. Agong, or Grandfather, encourages Jasmine to let her imagination take off from the Chinese characters he shows her each day. Soon they are whiling away the afternoons pretending to fly as high as the moon and stars, play with monkeys on a distant mountaintop, and feast on mooncakes and bubble tea.
Throughout the spring and summer they make up stories from the characters. But in the fall, her grandfather becomes ill, and then, he is gone. Jasmine is sad and lonely until one day, Tai-Tai grows too old for his naps, and Jasmine teaches him to make magic just like their grandfather had taught her. And the first Chinese character she teaches him is “agong” – the one that means grandfather.
Discussion: Readers will enjoy the Chinese folk-art illustrations by Huy Voun Lee that depict Jasmine and her grandfather acting out Jasmine’s fantasies. The Mandarin Chinese characters shown on each page to match the pictures are fascinating, and the author includes a pronunciation key at the back of the book. There is also information about the cut-paper collages used for the book, and an explanation of the Chinese treats that are Jasmine’s favorites.
Evaluation: I think children will love this heartwarming book, and adults might shed a tear or two, as I did. The information about Chinese culture and folk art at the end of the story is not only enlightening, but unlike much back matter in picture books, is presented at a level that will make it understandable even to children.
Published by Walker Publishing Company, Inc., a division of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., 2011