Title: Year of the Tiger
Author: Alison Lloyd
Publisher: Holiday House
Concepts: poverty, scarcity, wealth, incentives, barter, markets
Review: Li Hu and Zheng Ren come from opposite ends of China’s class hierarchy, with Hu the son of an extremely poor peasant family and Ren the son of a respected military commander and his third wife. The threat of a barbarian invasion during the Han Empire has brought these two boys together as Hu’s father was drafted to perform hard labor reinforcing a crumbling part of the Great Wall, while Ren’s father was sent from the capital city with his battalion to supervise the repairs.
In a gesture of good will, Commander Zheng proposed that his battalion host an archery competition for the townspeople during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Hu dreamed of winning the archery competition and the grand prize, one of the commander’s own horses. Selling that horse would go a long way to help buy food and warm clothing for his family. Ren dreamed of winning as well, but he sought his father’s hard-won respect more than any prize. Little did these boys realize that training for the competition would set them on a harrowing course of danger and deceit that would affect the well-being of the entire town.
This skillfully-crafted work of historical fiction provides an exciting tale of life in ancient China when rigid class structures afforded people little freedom to maneuver beyond a strictly-defined set of expectations. The poorest households remained highly vulnerable to hunger, cold, and disease, with little hope of assistance or advancement. Alison Lloyd uses these conditions to motivate a unique storyline that will both inform and entertain readers as they wonder about the fate of these two unlikely friends.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children