It’s 1975 in Communist China. For five years, a young girl has endured manual labor, filth and hunger in exile at a re-education camp. But tonight she will engage-once again-in an illicit act: the playing of the piano. In a place where musicians are criminals, she risks it all and is caught. The piano is smashed. Her sentence is lengthened – yet the music lives on. Based on international concert pianist Zhu Xiao-Mei’s life, Leblanc’s story gives insights into the Cultural Revolution and its impact. The text may be heavy-handed at times, but the story is ripe for discussion, with themes of self-expression and freedom, the affirmation of the individual through art and music as a form of resistance. Dazzling collage, pencil and paint illustrations from Barroux create a beautiful chiaroscuro of tension and release. Well-controlled expressive marks portray the young musician’s isolation. The limited palette of black, white and red-the latter of which is used to create a sense of intensity-is evocative of Communist China propaganda. A worthy and beautiful tale for historical and cultural studies. (Picture book. 6 & up)
The book will be available in the US market in January 2011.