________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 3 . . . . October 1, 2004

cover

A Song For Ba.

Paul Yee. Illustrated by Jan Peng Wang.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $17.95.
ISBN 0-88899-492-3.

Subject Headings:
Chinese-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Immigrants-Canada-Juvenile fiction.
Fathers and sons-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Carolyn Kim.

*** /4

excerpt:

Wei loved to go to the opera. When the curtain lifted, drums and cymbals crashed. An emperor and imperial princess shook out their generous sleeves and lit the stage with dazzling colors. White-painted faces showed scarlet red around the eyes, robes glittered with metallic embroidery and sequins, and headdresses gleamed from bands of pearls and beads and millions of tiny mirrors.

 

internal artSimilar 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.

Recommended.

Carolyn Kim is an MA student in Children's Literature at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

NEXT REVIEW | TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - October 1, 2004.

AUTHORS | TITLES | MEDIA REVIEWS | PROFILES | BACK ISSUES | SEARCH | CMARCHIVE | HOME