Summer (Cao Wenxuan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Summer, written by Cao Wenxuan and illustrated by Yu Rong, a modern-day fable of kindness and cooperation.

The book begins with a brief prelude, a page that sets a rural summer scene, complete with people and animals sheltering from the bright sun. Then the story jumps to a hot, dry grassland, where several animals big and small race across the dusty landscape toward shade. Spotting a tree, the animals rush toward it, arguing over who arrived first when they get there (the tiny mouse, technically first to arrive, is ignored by the much larger beasts). At last, the elephant muscles his way under the tree, taking up all the space. But looking up, the animals – even Elephant – all begin to laugh: the tree only has a few leaves left, and the sight of elephant crouching under the tiny spot of shade is absurd. Noting a man and his son crossing the landscape, the father using his shadow to keep his boy cool, the animals take a moment to consider – perhaps being selfish is not the way to manage their troubles.

Delightful! This translation of award-winning Chinese kidlit author Cao’s work weaves a thoughtful and measured lesson in teamwork and consideration, striking a tone that is subtle yet packs just the right emotional punch. The pacing may feel a bit unfamiliar, especially at the beginning, but it’s a refreshing sort of difference. And the interactive pages at the climax of the story were a wonderful surprise that fit the tone and look of the story perfectly. Yu’s sweet animals and use of light/shadow are brilliant – restrained, engaging, and heartwarming at the end. The length is great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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