I am delighted to announce that ‘Little Leap Forward’ has been included in the ‘Diverse Voices’ List – the 50 best culturally diverse children’s books in the UK collated by the National Centre for Children’s Books- Seven Stories, in conjunction with publisher Frances Lincoln and in association with The Guardian.
The Guardian will be supporting the announcement with a week of articles and features on the issue of diversity – a hot topic in Britain at the moment – there is a lively debate here for the need for more diversity in children’s books so it’s a great honour to be included in the list.
Little Leap Forward’ written by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow and published by Barefoot Books is a semi-autobiographical novel about a small boy living in the time of Mao’s Great Leap Forward. From the greyness of the mazy alleys of the Beijing Hutongs springs a love of food and music – something that the real Guo Yue later followed to become a celebrated flautist and chef – you can see him playing here –
From his family home in the traditional courtyard between the beautiful Drum and Bell Towers, Little Leap Forward spends his days flying kites, playing by the river and helping his sister to cook. He learns to play the reed flute and begins a friendship with a small yellow finch. Little Leap Forward plays to her in her red cage but he can never make her sing. As Mao’s political repression hardens, Little Leap Forward realises that the best gift he can give is freedom and one day goes to the riverside, gently opens the cage door and lets the small yellow finch fly up into the skies. And in thanks for her liberty, the bird sings the most beautiful song for him, high and sweet…
It’s one of those stories that makes your hair stand on end and I was so honoured to illustrate it. I took my time with research and used some elements of Chinese art to influence the design – in the clouds and riverwater outside and the steam rising from the hot woks in the cramped little kitchen.
It’s great to be part of this fantastic book and I’m so proud it has been honoured at the highest level of recognition.