Title: Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing
Author: Guo Yue and Clare Farrow
Illustrator: Helen Cann
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Concepts: economic role of government, allocation, distribution, scarcity
Review: A young boy named Little Leap Forward lives in a traditional courtyard in Beijing with his siblings and mother. Protected by the naïveté of youth, he likes nothing more than to fly kites and skim stones along the river with his best friend. It is during one of their jaunts at the river that they capture a tiny yellow bird, and Little Leap decides to keep it as a pet. Over the course of time, though, the little bird will not sing, even with all the special treats it receives, and Little Leap must consider the costs of his denying the bird its freedom.
This sweet tale is interwoven with a bleaker story about growing up in the aftermath of China’s Great Leap Forward and at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Because food is still scarce, many items are rationed, and family members such as Little Leap must use ration tickets and wait in long queues when they purchase food. The Cultural Revolution ushers in the Red Guards, with consequences that even the innocence of youth cannot hide from Little Leap.
This book is recommended most highly for its carefully crafted story and its portrayal of a momentous and chaotic period of China’s history from a child’s point of view. The accompanying art work, superb in its own right, speaks volumes about the historical backdrop and the main character’s roles in his family and community. The book is a true gem.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children