Russell, Ching Yeung, illus. by Jonathan T. Russell. Child Bride. Boyd’s Mill Press, 1999. ISBN 978-1563977480 32 pp. $
The culture of China in the mid-twentieth century China is vibrantly portrayed in this sequel to First Apple. Ying, sent away from her Au Pah (maternal grandmother) to live with her Ah Mah (paternal grandmother) who has arranged a fine–and undesired–marriage for her. Torn between missing her Ah Pau and enjoying the luxury of being a rich young lady, Ying is determined not be a child bride. She pleads to return home, escapes and is recaptured, and then is deceived into a release that brings her face to face with her intended. Will Ying be allowed to follow a destiny of her own choosing, or will Ah Mah bend Ying to her will?
Every child can relate to the generation gap and conflict with their elders. Ying is an easy character to sympathize with. The writing is simple and graceful, but the plot seems a bit weak; I was expecting more adventure and conflict. Subplots include Ying’s friendship with a wild mixed race child who lives near her Ah Mah and briefly takes her under his wing, and a gambling aunt. The historical context is briefly explained in an introduction. A glossary is appended, although no pronunciations are included, only definitions. A map at the beginning shows cities related to Ying’s journey. The text, peppered with Chinese, brings the novel to life. Detailed descriptions of furnishings, clothing, makeup and food inform the reader while delighting the senses. Decorations by Jonathan T. Russell of typical foods and ornaments enhance the text.
Overall the work is average. It will serve a purpose where historical or multicultural fiction on this time period is needed, but it is neither a necessity for purchase nor a dazzling piece of literature. Wait for the paperback, and in the meantime, try Bound Feet and Western Dress by Pang-Mei Natasha Chang for slighter older students.