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Kay Haugaard, illustrated by Carolyn Reed Barritt
The Day the Dragon Danced
Shen's Books, 2006

Ages 4-8

The Day the Dragon Danced is more than a fun book explaining Chinese New Year to the uninitiated.  It is a simple story about the excitement of learning and experiencing new things while creating understanding across generations as well as cultures.

Sugar, a young African-American girl, can't wait to see the dragon dance in the Chinese New Year parade.  Her grandmother, who "never set eyes on a Chinese person 'til I was a grown woman" doesn't understand what all the fuss is about as she reluctantly follows her granddaughter to the festivities.  Fortunately, Sugar's teacher, Miss Peng, has taught the child well, and Sugar is able to answer all of Grandma's cranky questions about New Year's Day being in February and how the dragons chase away evil spirits.  She is also able to talk her grandmother into buying her some of the Chinese sweets she learned about at school as they stroll through market stalls offering Chinese delicacies and bamboo plants.

Sugar's father, who has been taking a Kung Fu class, is actually one of the dancers holding the dragon in the parade, along with Mr. Chu, Mr. Feng, Dr. Ito, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gonzalez, who are all well known in the community.  Though the dancers have a hard time working together at first, they are gradually able to make the dragon dance, delighting even Grandma, who heartily wishes her family Gung Hay Fat Choy by the story's end.

Kay Haugaard's sweet tale of multicultural and multigenerational celebration is matched by Carolyn Reed Barritt's colorful illustrations, full of bright reds and yellows that evoke China on every page.   The Day the Dragon Danced brings the excitement of Chinese New Year to life for all readers and will surely inspire children to find out where they can watch dragons dance, too.

Abigail Sawyer
January 2007

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