Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Saturday 28 January 2012

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

This week it has been Chinese New Year. Coincidentally, I have recently finished reading a novel set in 12th Century China by the wonderful Geraldine McCaughrean, who has won numerous awards and was chosen to write the official sequel of Peter Pan (the rights are owned by Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children), Peter Pan in Scarlet.


12 year old Haoyou lives in 13th century China with his mother, father and little sister Wawa. After Haoyou witnesses the death of his father in an accident at the hands of Di Chou, the brutal First Mate of a ship, he joins the Jade Circus as a kite rider to make enough money to prevent his mother from being forced into marriage with Di Chou by his greedy great uncle Bo. Haoyou and his cousin Mipeng, who is posing as a medium, travel with the circus as far as Xanadu, the summer palace of the conquering Mongol emperor Kublai Khan. 

This novel combines vivid descriptions of China and Confucian beliefs with amazing evocations of the excitement and terror of flight, and Haoyou's longing to communicate with the spirit of his father. The supporting characters are vividly drawn and I particularly enjoyed Mipeng; this is a clever use of the unreliable narrator, where the story is told from Haoyou's point of view but the (adult) reader can spot her growing feelings for the owner of the Jade Circus, The Great Miao, who is hiding a secret of his own. 

It strikes me that if I was reading this to a class of children, it would be great to explore some Chinese food and culture. 
  • There is a great recipe for wrap your own spring rolls on the BBC Good Food website. 
  • You could listen to some of Sa Dingding's (a Chinese pop star compared to Bjork) music. My favourite is Ha Ha Li Li. I have no idea what it means, but I like the epic feel of it.
  • You could make a kite. There is a round-up of some instructions for making different types here. Maybe the children could draw a picture of Haoyou to include as a kite rider?
I recommend this book to read to children aged 8+, and for 9+ children to read for themselves. Happy New Year!


  1. I'll have to introduce my two eldest kids to this - they're half Sino-Thai. It sounds like the kind of book I would have loved reading as a child.

  2. Thank you for your comment! I hope that they enjoy it. She's a fantastic writer in many genres, and really deserves to be better known.