Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Morning Sun in Wuhan

Compestine, Ying. Morning Sun in Wuhan
November 8th 2022 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In January of 2020, Mei Wong is trying to navigate her life in Wuhan, China, after the recent death of her mother in a traffic accident. Both of her parents were busy doctors, so she also relies on her Aunt, who is the director of Yangtze Middle School, which Mei attends.Mei loves to cook, and plays a video game called Chop Chop, wherein the players have to practice their cooking skills in order to feed soldiers that are protecting society from zombie hordes. She plays this online with friends Ming and Hong. She shared a love of food with her late mother, and the two often went to a restaurant where Chef Ma worked, since her mother had saved his daughter when she was ill. When the news starts to buzz that there is a bad virus circulating, Mei's father gives her a mask and tells her to stay inside as much as possible. He stocks the kitchen with food, but doesn't come home for days. The neighbors in the building have a WeChat group that Mrs. Fong has put together, and are all taking care of each other. Food is a problem, especially after authorities put everyone in lockdown, and only those with volunteer passes can do shopping. Food is sent up in baskets, and the elderly and the very young who have ill adults are struggling with getting meals. Even upstairs neighbor, Juan, who is about Mei's age, subsists on shrimp crackers until she asks for Mei's help. Mei begs her aunt to be able to help out Chef Ma, whose restaurant has been closed but who is now working in the middle school kitche to provide food for hospitcal workers. Both she and Mei's father are reluctant at first, but eventually allow her to help cook. She's not used to the scale or speed of a professional kitchen, but learns a lot, and even helps to coordinate meals in her neighborhood. She still longs for her mother, but is glad that she is able to get out of the apartment and use her skills to help others. When Mei's father collapses at work, there is a fear that he is ill with COVID-19. How will this change Mei's life?
Strengths: In addition to the fantastic middle grade titles Revolution is Not a Dinner Party (2007) and Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier (2014), Compestine has also written a number of cookbooks and food themed picture books. It's not a surprise that there is so much food in this book, and the recipes look so enticing that I was half tempted to try some myself! There have been a few middle grade pandemic titles published, but it was absolutely fascinating to see a perspective from another country, and since Wuhan is Compestine's hometown, the details were great. The inclusion of video game details will make this appeal to readers who are interested in those, although I suspect this is not a real game. 
Weaknesses: Mei's mother's death seemed a bit forced, but I understand the need to get the mother out of the picture so that Mei had to take care of herself a bit more. It did seem odd that Mei wasn't shown attending school virtually, but again, the story took a different direction. The book ended rather abruptly, but perhaps the E ARC cut off some of it. 
What I really think: This was quite interesting, and will be a great historical document for students who, in a few short years, will not remember much about 2020. The cover is very appealing, and the appearance of a mask on Mei will be evocative for readers today. I would love to see some realistic fiction titles from this author about ordinary children and their daily life in China; books like Baitie's Crossing the Stream or Danticat's Behind the Mountains have proven to be popular in my library, since they offer a window into a life unlike the one that my students are living. 
 Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I too would love to see the author's take on daily life in China, fingers crossed.