Wednesday 24 April 2024

Review: Scroll by Hui LI (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E)

  September 2023, Little Brown Young Readers, 40 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary

 After Grandpa introduces calligraphy and Chinese characters to Lulu and her dog Dumpling, they find themselves magically transported to a world where the characters they draw come to life! Soon Lulu and Dumpling meet a bird, a zither-playing musician, and many other animated friends. But when they discover an angry dragon, Lulu is not sure how to draw them out of this tense encounter.

Nayu's thoughts

I'm fascinated with non-roman alphabet languages, as there is so much to learn. I can understand and speak Japanese, it took years to get to a point where I can understand anime. Japanese has three alphabets, hiragana and katakana plus kanji which is pictorial. Chinese as a language is much more complex, there is simply the pictograph form creating thousands of characters. I'm in awe of both native speakers and those who learn it as a second language as it seems way more complex than Japanese which is more than enough for me.  

Hui Li uses images to explore the picture world of the Chinese language through Lulu  and Dumpling's eyes. It is easy to see how some words form because they really do look like the words they describe. Lulu's magical adventure with her canine partner take them to a world with a scary looking dragon which Lulu is desperate to avoid, but the eventual meeting did not go as I expected which was a wonderful twist. Lulu uses the characters in her journey and finds help in unexpected places. 

There are pages with extremely detailed watercolour illustrations that cram in so much Chinese culture. Other pages are simpler but no less symbolic, the lack of some details means the focus is on the characters, which is the centre of the story. I can see how this would help new learners to Chinese, I really hope Hui Li creates more books like this as they are stunning to look at and quite educational at the same time as being fun. 

Suggested read

If you like culture filled reads check out this tale about American pioneer life The Little Pioneer by Adam Hancher (Children's, Picture book, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)


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