Book Review – The Red Piano

Imagine the thing you love to do most in the world.  Something you do whenever you get a chance, something you talk about to other people because you want them to know all about it.  Now imagine that the thing you love to do has been made illegal.  Not only that, but now you have to be retrained to love other things.

This is life in 1975 for Zhu Xiao-Mei, a young girl stuck in a Chinese Cultural Revolution Camp where the Communist Party conducts “learning through labour and self-criticism.”  Brrrr!

Zhu Xiao-Mei has played the piano since she was little but has spent the last five years in a world where the piano, and pianists, are illegal.  Somehow, she and her accomplice in the camp managed to smuggle a piano in.  A miracle!  Now she can play the piano after working in the field, performing pieces written on small scraps of paper she hides in notebooks.  But eventually, Zhu Xiao-Mei and her piano are discovered…

This book is larger than normal size for a picture book, and well worth the extra space.  The simple art style combining small collage elements with inky brushtrokes is beautiful.  Beside the worn and dirty tan, the only other color in the book is a deep red.  It’s hard not to be moved by this biography of Zhu Xiao0Mei, the young pianist who plays for the love of music in a hostile situation.

The Red Piano
written and illustrated by Andre LeBlanc-Barroux
Wilkins Farago
ISBN: 9780980607017

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