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Unread 09-29-2006   #1 (permalink)
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Default Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat

Illus. in full color. When Chin Yu Min's wealthy husband drowns, her life of idleness comes to an end--until she meets a mysterious ginger cat fishing with his long tail. Striking illustrations complement this original folktale of a haughty widow whose life is transformed by friendship.
Customer Review: The Start of A Beautiful Friendship
This book is pure butterscotch. Now you'll wonder what on earth I'm talking about. Some books form an instantaneous sensual impression for me through the combination of art and text that blend together in a single image. In this case, that image is butterscotch: scrumptious flowing artwork in vibrant glowing colors and marvelous lines of story that invite the reader to settle into a comfortable chair by the fire and read, or listen as the tale unfolds. Accomplished author, Jennifer Armstrong pens this delightful Chinese story about a haughty widow and the lesson she must learn. Chin Yu Min is a proud and arrogant woman who feels the wealth that she has is only what she deserves, and she mistreats others around her to show her power. But when her husband dies suddenly, she is left alone and the money slowly runs out. Chin Yu Min is too proud to accept the help of her neighbors-too proud to admit her poverty to anyone. But when she is desperate enough to try fishing for herself for food, she happens upon a most remarkable cat that can catch fish with his tale. Our crafty widow strikes a deal with the cat-he will catch fish for her and she will provide him with a home to stay in. The cat agrees and the new bounty of fish allows the widow to become wealthy again. But Chin Yu Min's new partnership gradually turns to friendship with the cat, and when her old arrogance threatens to separate her from the ginger cat, the widow will have to decide between her material wealth and the value of friendship. Each page is full of Ms. Armstrong's trademark descriptions and lyrical imagery: "The fine lacquer bowls were dulled by hard use, and the lettered scrolls of sheerest paper flapped like ragged ghosts from the walls." The setting and details clearly evoke China without feeling uncomfortable to a reader who may be less familiar with the setting. The themes of this story are universal. As a reader who finds words a feast, this is a sumptuous meal indeed, but it may be a bit complicated for younger listeners, and a challenge for new readers. The book is text heavy, so it may be a challenge to read aloud and probably too long for younger children. The grade school child is likely the best audience for this story. All on its own, the story is a marvel. But what truly makes this book "butterscotch" are Mary Grandpre's masterful illustrations. Some of you might recognize Ms. Grandpre's artwork on the covers of the Harry Potter series, but before she had turned her talents to Mr. Potter, she created books such as this. I would not have guessed this was the illustrator's first picture book had it not mentioned it in her bio, her talent shines through and it was the pictures that first enticed me to pull this book from the shelf to page through. The art is stylistic without losing the human touch to it, and all the lines feel soft and fluid. There's a warmth and light to the images that creates a truly rich tapestry for the story. The ginger cat comes to life in her pictures, especially his long and elegant tale as it catches fish out of the water. Rather than going for realistic scenes or single story perspectives, Ms. Grandpre creates scenes that capture movement and emotion in each image, allowing the reader to feel the glow of contentment when Chin Yu Min and the cat are seated together by the fire, or the terrible sorrow the widow feels when she realizes she's lost her friend and her scrolls go tumbling around her to the floor. The book has become a beloved favorite in my collection. If you enjoy this story, you might wish to take a look at Pockets, also by Jennifer Armstrong and illustrated by Mary Grandpre. For other multicultural tales, you might also wish to check out Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami and Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott. Happy Reading! ^_^ Shanshad
Customer Review: It's about treating people with repect
I was sorry to hear that other readers found this book to be about making the rich evil. I did not find that at all. The moral of the story is about treating others with respect. It's about appreciating what is around you and not taking those in your life for granted. It's a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations.

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