At Auntie Yen’s apartment, she eats a “favorite lunch” prepared by Auntie’s cook, then she’s off with Auntie to shop at the Grand Mall, have tea in the park, meet Auntie’s friends for dinner, stroll the Grand Bund, and end their girls’ day out with a foot massage. Returning to Auntie’s apartment, the little girl does her schoolwork, while Auntie “calls her American business partner,” who is just starting his day in Boston. The girl falls asleep remembering her busy day and the many people she met, pondering over “What will I be?”
Satya House Publications – “where ignorance is not bliss, knowledge is” – debuts their I See the Sun Series with China. I See the Sun in Nepal is due out this month. “Each book in the … Series will portray the essential cultural elements of one country through the eyes of a child, providing the reader or listener with an understanding of ‘a day in the life’ of that child,” writes Satya publisher Julie Murkette. The book is presented in both English and Mandarin Chinese, and all the forthcoming titles in the series will be bilingual. A glossary of a few potentially ‘foreign’ words – congee and Tai Chi here, for example – plus an abbreviated country guide ends each title.
While the series’ premise is certainly admirable, their execution is not without a few questionable choices. These may be minor quibbles, but I found myself concerned nonetheless.
Neither author Dedie King nor illustrator Judith Inglese seem to have any direct experience in or ties to China, which strikes me as somewhat problematic when introducing Chinese culture to readers. While King was a 1960s Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal and “especially loves the Far East” according to her bio, no mention is made of either King or Inglese as having visited China, nor any of the countries in the forthcoming titles in the series (with the exception of King’s Nepali adventures). The future list is extensive: I See the Sun installments due in 2011 include Afghanistan, India, and Israel/Palestine; titles scheduled for 2012 include Russia, Korea, and Brazil. So I have to ask … is direct cultural experience necessary for authenticity?
As far as cultural accuracy, China’s one-child policy ignominiously remains in place, and continues to cause gender-related imbalances and inequities. The little girl here has a younger brother …
As for the story’s logistical details, I wondered about a young girl traveling alone on a public ferry from a village to a major city. She’s pictured with pigtails and drawn quite a bit shorter/smaller than her Auntie; the series is targeted for children ages 5 and up so the audience is quite young … Would parents anywhere allow such a young girl to travel solo like this?
As for her busy, busy afternoon, if you factor in traffic and other mundane challenges of reality, how could she and Auntie have crammed all that in and still have time to come back and do schoolwork before bed at a reasonable hour for a young girl?
The next book in the series is due out momentarily … I See the Sun in Nepal should be an interesting comparison to China. As noted, the series’ intentions are undoubtedly promising … how the future titles ultimately fare will definitely be worth watching – and reading.