Shanghai Messenger

By School Library Journal

Eleven-year-old Xiao Mei is on her way to China to meet her extended family. She was initially reluctant to make the trip, wondering if she would be accepted because she is only half Chinese, but her grandmother, Nai Nai, tells stories of family members that pique her curiosity. Xiao Mei agrees to be Nai Nai’s messenger, and to ‘Look everything./Remember.’ Once in Shanghai, the girl is warmly welcomed, and begins to learn about and appreciate her heritage. She makes wontons with Auntie, visits gardens where her great-grandfather’s words are carved in the archways, and participates in morning Tai Chi exercises. When Xiao Mei returns home to Ohio after a week, she takes gifts, including a fan painted by an uncle that brings ‘a little bit of China’ to America. Cheng does an admirable job of capturing this experience from the perspective of a child, and each free-verse chapter is brief but satisfying. With the exception of one spread illustrating the Tai Chi exercises, Young’s illustrations delicately intertwine with the text, gently supporting each vignette. This is a superb book, capturing both the excitement and adventure of Xiao Mei’s trip, as well as her realization that family ties can bridge great distances.