Thursday, November 19, 2020

Review - Ming's Christmas Wishes

Ming's Christmas Wishes

by Susan L. Gong
illustrated by Masehiro Tateishi
Date: 2020
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

Inspired by family stories.

Ming wishes for three things at Christmas. First, to sing in the school Christmas choir. Second, to have a Christmas tree like the one in the department store window. And third, to feel she belongs somewhere.

As a daughter of immigrants in 1930s California, Ming is often treated differently than other children at school. She’s pointedly not invited to sing in the Christmas choir. At home, when Ming lobbies her parents for a Christmas tree, her mother scolds her for trying to be American. Ming doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere: she’s not quite American enough at school, not quite Chinese enough at home.

Seeing his daughter’s unhappiness, Pop takes her into the mountains to visit a wise old friend. Always happy for an adventure with her kind father, Ming hopes to persuade Pop to bring home a mountain pine to be their Christmas tree. But he has something else in mind, something that will help Ming draw strength from nature, from their Chinese heritage, and from deep and enduring family ties.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This Christmas picture book features lovely illustrations and a nice theme... but it suffers from a lack of context.

From the very beginning, we see Ming struggling to find acceptance both at school and at home. Young readers might wonder why Ming isn't allowed to sing with the other students simply because she's Chinese. The book obviously takes place in another time (and the blurb states that it's the 1930s) but the only clues in the story are the illustrations and a few mentions of historical events (the Gold Rush, the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, etc.). Ming, having been born and raised in the US, just wants to be like the other kids. She especially wants a Christmas tree for their house. But her mother refuses to allow it.

Most of the story is taken up with Ming and her father visiting a couple of old friends, recalling their history, and visiting an old shrine in a grove of sequoias. Ming eventually gets a Christmas tree of sorts (while her mother looks on miserably). The ending is rather abrupt, even though it fits in with the rest of the story.

An author's note would've been much appreciated. If this is inspired by family stories, I would've liked reading about those. That might have also helped anchor the story in a particular time and place. As it is, readers are left to puzzle over why Ming's teacher is such a racist, not allowing a little girl to sing Christmas carols.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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