"Half-Chinese Xiao Mei (May in English) is 11, going alone from Ohio to visit her extended family in Shanghai. In vivid poems, almost iridescent in their clarity of feeling, May wonders if people in China will stare at her green-flecked eyes; sees what her great-grandfather carved in stone in Suzhou Gardens; buys a live duck for lunch in the marketplace. The fear of being so far from the familiar and the ache of a loving but very different set of relatives are exquisitely delineated, no more so than in Young's beautiful illustrations. Each page is laid out with borders and centerpieces of a red Chinese grillwork pattern in perfect geometry; while soft-edged, brilliantly colored vignettes of May learning t'ai chi, riding on a moped to take laundry to dry, playing catch with a child and a red ball, illuminate every page. Some images catch at the heart-Auntie unwrapping a wonton to tuck the last speck of pork in before cooking, or May back in Ohio missing the shouting farmers outside her window in Shanghai. Wonderfully evocative." -Kirkus Reviews, starred
"Cheng's (Marika) vivid writing and Young's (Beyond the Great Mountain) resonant illustrations mesh perfectly in this story about the close bonds of family. Xiao Mei, an 11-year-old Chinese-American girl, travels from Ohio to Shanghai to visit her Chinese relatives. The novel unspools in humorous, often poignant free-verse poems. . . . The poem-like vignettes flow down vertically, framed by red interlinking lines that stimulate Chinese screens. This border, alongside soft-edged pastels, gives the pages a feeling as intimate as this closely-knit family. Readers of any ethnic background will enjoy learning about China through Xiao Mei's curious eyes, but for those with far-flung families, the book will have a special significance,"
-Publishers Weekly, starred
"Cheng does an admirable job of capturing this experience from the perspective of a child, and each free-verse chapter is brief but satisfying. . . . Young's illustrations delicately intertwine with the text, gently supporting each vignette. This is a superb book, capturing both the excitement and adventure of Xiao Mei's trip, as well as her realization that family ties can bridge great distances." -School Library Journal
"Cheng's free-verse story, illustrated with Young's small, expressive line-and-watercolor pictures, shows the child's initial doubts, the plane journey and the arrival, and the welcoming young cousins and adults. Whether she is making wontons, doing tai chi in the park, helping her cousin buy a computer, or singing the songs from The Lion King in English and Chinese, she discovers her connections with a rich, exciting world." -Booklist
"This beautiful book recounts the ups and downs of her trip - strangeness, kindness, foods both familiar and exotic, old gardens and towering modern buildings, a school, a market, new words, aunties, uncles and cousins - in blank verse so smooth it doesn't feel like verse at all. And Ed Young's delicate, lovingly detailed drawings capture every step of the journey from shyness to elation: "I want to stay in Shanghai forever," Xiao Mei concludes." -Washington Post
"[Young's] drawings and the consistent pattern on each page feels like you are looking into a room past bamboo screens getting a rare glimpse into something special, while at the same time, allows the beautiful, lyrical verse to take center stage."
-The Field Guide to Parenting, starred
"'You are my messenger. Look everything. Remember,'" instructs Xiao Mei's grandmother as the young girl prepares to fly to China for the summer. Cheng's sequence of free-verse poems offers a simple yet telling record of the many small glimpses Xiao Mei gets into the country of her ancestry as she follows Nai Nai's directive. Each poem focuses on a specific moment or experience, and the child's viewpoint is remarkably well conveyed; rather than offering prosaic descriptions, the poems offer a balance of simple description and the expected personal response of an eleven-year-old girl who has undertaken a big journey. Cheng effectively constructs Xiao Mei's grandmother as both Xiao Mei's link to China and as a fully developed character in her own right, and the tender relationship between Nai Nai and her granddaughter is evident in their interactions. Young's mixed-media illustrations (pastel, ink, dye, charcoal, and crayon) offer visual interpretations of Xiao Mei's experiences; each small composition is set in or around the text, and the careful smudging of the chosen medium subtly evokes Xiao Mei's increasingly blurred cultural demarcations." -Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Each page features one slender column of text arranged in free-form poetry format. The outer page edges and inner gutters are decorated with traditional Chinese grid designs. Additional illustrations appear on every page, enhancing the storyline. This enticing presentation will attract leisure readers, and the book could be used to support units on family relationships, multicultural awareness, or regional studies." -Library Media Connection
"Shanghai Messenger is a gorgeous book in every way possible. Andrea Cheng's narrative is spare and evocative and you want it never to be over. Shanghai native Ed Young's masterful illustrations prod the imagination ever so gently. Even the font used for section titles and first letters is unforgettable." -The Asian Reporter
" This free-verse novel follows Xiao Mei's transformation from reticent tourist to comfortable Shanghai dweller. Details of daily life, Chinese words, and a pronunciation guide add to the text's authentic feel. Young's soft pastel illustrations complement Cheng's poetic images."
-The Horn Book Guide
"Day by day, readers share [Xiao Mei's] experiences and get to know Shanghai life. Ed Young flanks each page with Chinese lattice 'doors' along with full color illustrations so that when Xiao Mei returns home, readers will understand her need to send 'Pictures from America' with 'a table/full of food/and so many people/all around.' Intermediate students will enjoy practicing the names and words given at the beginning of the book." -School Librarian's Workshop