Playing with Lanterns

Amazon Crossing. Dec. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781542029841.
PreS-Gr 2—In snowy northern China, children celebrate the new year by lighting candles in paper lanterns, usually given by their uncles; young Zhao Di receives her lantern and runs outside to play with friends. All of the figures are rounded, padded with multicolored, patterned winter coats, mittens, boots, hats, and scarves. Important words appear in red text, in capital letters (New Year, lanterns, Zhao Di). The story is narrated in past tense, using an odd blend of first-person plural and third person, and there is no real conflict or arc: Zhao Di enjoys the 15-day celebration and is sad when she has to smash her lantern at the end of it, but remembers New Year will come again. An author’s note explains that in Shaanxi province in northwest China, smashing lanterns is a folk tradition that can be traced back to the Han Dynasty. The painterly illustrations help readers enjoy the special New Year experience. Switching between a kids’-eye view and a perspective from above, the illustrations showcase the different kinds of colorful, glowing lanterns, the way children’s footprints appear behind them in the snow, and how the sky grows dark early in the evening, then fills with bright fireworks.
VERDICT This work will foster discussions of unique traditions and is a good addition to holiday collections.

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