CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004
Similar to the time when Shakespeare's plays were dramatized, Chinese opera required men to sing both male and female roles. When the Chinese opera house falls on hard times due to shrinking audiences, Wei Lim's father, Ba, an opera singer, is forced to sing the female parts. Realizing there is no future for opera singing in Canada, Ba discourages Wei from being a part of it. But Wei loves the opera, and he secretly learns from his grandfather, a famous opera singer in China. Wei's lessons pay off when Ba, who normally plays the General, a role that requires a deep singing voice, has trouble learning the female parts. Ba learns from his son, and Wei is thrilled on opening night when he hears his own voice in his father's in the opening song of the play.
This story provides a snapshot into the cultural history of China when it was struggling to form its roots in Canada. The Chinese opera is one of those cultural aspects that did not last long in Canada. The story alludes to reasons, such as the younger generations preferring to watch picture shows instead of operas. Furthermore, the government had stopped Chinese immigration which contributed to shrinking audiences.
Many two-page spreads reveal wonderfully illustrated pictures with rich, nostalgic colours showing through the texture of the canvas. The tone and mood of the illustrations re-create a time long ago and tell the story of a boy who straddles the uncertainty of two cultures coming together.
Carolyn Kim is an MA student in Children's Literature at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.