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March 9, 2018

Bronze and Sunflower

Bronze and Sunflower (Candlewick, March 14, 2017)
by Cao Wenxuan (Author), Meilo So (Illustrator), Helen Wang (Translator)
Middle Grade

Set during China’s Cultural Revolution (1960’s-70’s), Bronze and Sunflower follows the trials and tribulations of a poor, rural family as they prevail over extreme hardship through the power of love, loyalty, and compassion.

Sunflower accompanies her artist-father to the countryside where he undergoes political reform at a labor camp. Left on her own for most of the day, Sunflower longs to play with the village children across the river. When her father tragically drowns, Sunflower is taken in by Bronze’s family, the poorest family in Damaidi village. Bronze, who is mute, and Sunflower form an instant bond and become inseparable. In leisurely, languid prose, Cao captures both the joys and harsh realities of rural farming life: Sunflower and Bronze picking wild plants or catching fish; the family’s struggle to rebuild their house after a storm. Yet, despite their adversities, the close-knit family members will do anything for each other: Bronze hoists Sunflower on his shoulders and stands for hours so she can watch a circus; Sunflower deliberately fails her exams so they can use the money for Nai Nai’s medical costs. In the end, the family makes the ultimate sacrifice but they do it with the same grace and resolute strength they’ve demonstrated throughout the story. While seemingly utopian, the story and its protagonists reflect the Confucian values of filial piety and society above self—the very foundation of Chinese culture.

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