________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 25 . . . . March 1, 2013


Beyond the Moongate: True Stories of 1920s China.

Elizabeth Quan.
Toronto, ON: Tundra/Random House of Canada, 2013.
40 pp., hardcover & EPUB, $21.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-383-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-382-7 (EPUB).

Subject Headings:
Quan, Elizabeth, 1921- -Travel-China-Juvenile literature.
China-Description and travel-Juvenile literature.
China-Social life and customs-1912-1949-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gillian Green.

***½ /4



Although we did not know her, the bride was glad to see us and invites us in. With no duties to perform for her mother-in-law yet, she dawdled with her makeup and her jar of fine-toothed combs at her dressing table. "Shall I make you pretty?" she asked.

Gerry and I smiled and nudged each other, unsure of what she had in mind. But soon she began to apply powder, rouge, and lipstick, chatting all the while. She told us she was seventeen and how much she was enjoying transforming us. Then she dabbed flower-scented dew behind our ears so we would smell pretty, too. When she had finished, we carefully examined ourselves in the mirror - gorgeous! We hurried home to show Mama.

She took one horrified look. "Ai yah!!" she screamed, running for a washcloth and soap.

This delightful memoir is the story of the two years Elizabeth Quan lived in rural China during the 1920s. Her family left Canada to stay with her grandmother so that Elizabeth and her siblings could learn about their cultural roots.

internal art      This biography is told through short, anecdotal stories that include themes of cultural identity, a sense of belonging and growing up. Via a number of comical stories, young readers will enjoy the mischief that Elizabeth and her sister get into. Right after Elizabeth's new baby brother was born, Elizabeth came down with a terrible "stomachache". The Western doctor could not determine what Elizabeth's problem was, and it was not until a visit with a Chinese herbalist, who recognized Elizabeth's desire for attention, that drastic measures were taken to cure her of her "illness".

      Although these stories take place in China during the 1920s, children will identify with Elizabeth's desire to make friends, problems at school, participating in festivals and troubles with siblings. Readers will also be introduced to ancient Chinese traditions (such as foot binding) and issues around immigration.

      Elizabeth Quan is a watercolourist who has be active in the art scene for over twenty-five years. She was the last protégé of Jack Pollock and has published three books. The watercolour artwork in this book is vibrant and animated and gives depth and energy to the story.

      A table of contents introduces the stories, which are told chronologically but that are standalone tales. Because each story is presented on one page with one illustration, it is easy to flip to any page and dive into Elizabeth's experience.

      In the afterword, which includes a photograph of her revered grandmother, Elizabeth explains what happened to her family following their stay in China. Beyond the Moongate would be a wonderful addition to a public, school or personal library.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Green is a children's reference librarian in Woodstock, ON.

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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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