Mei Li

Mei Li

How fun to pick up this book written in the thirties to see how different our picture books are now! "In North China, near the Great Wall, is a city shut in by a Wall." This is where young Mei Li lives with her family and it is the day before New Year's Day. They are preparing a feast to honor the Kitchen God who will appear at midnight "to tell them what they must do during the coming. Mei Li is listening to her Uncle Wang talk about the wonders of the New Year Fair in the city. She would love to go beyond her walls but girls "always had to stay home." When her brother, San Yu, heads off for his great adventure, Mei Li slips away and follows him. Now proceeds a universal battle between an older brother and a younger sister. "Girls are always afraid. What can a girl do at the New Year Fair?" are the words fired off by San Yu. Mei Li looks around her and decides to show her brother that she can be as talented and brave as the circus performers they are watching. One by one she hands out the pennies she has brought with her and when she's down to her last Lucky Penny she asks her brother to throw it for her. "Ring the bell with a penny and you will have money for all the year," says the priest. Her brother makes off with the penny instead of throwing it and angry Mei Li sadly wanders off and finds a young priest who tells her "You will rule over a kingdom." Oh, I'm going to be a princess she thinks. How magical and wonderful. Where is her kingdom? Well, ladies, this is 1938. Her kingdom is in her home. It might be fun to have a discussion about how women's lives have changed. Won the Caldecott in 1939. The second winner of that medal.

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