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From The Asian Reporter, V19, #3 (January 20, 2009), page 15.

Precocious and vivacious

The Day the Dragon Danced

By Kay Haugaard

Illustrations by Carolyn Reed Barritt

Shenís Books, 2006

Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

So whatís a dragon got to do with New Yearís?" Grandma asks Sugar. "It isnít even New Yearís. Here it is February already."

You canít get a whole lot more multicultural than this rollicking romp for Lunar New Year. Sugar and Grandma are African American, and Sugar has a teacher named Miss Peng who says Chinese dragons "are wise and strong and chase away bad spirits or eat them up." And thatís just the first page, where, in one of many sprightly illustrations, the girl tugs enthusiastically on her grandmotherís hand as Grandma reluctantly allows herself to be dragged along to the Lunar New Year parade. If anyone else out there is hesitant about Lunar New Year, The Day the Dragon Danced is just the thing to get you in the spirit.

Sugar takes it upon herself to educate Grandma ó and the reader ó about everything from dragonís beard candy to what New Yearís Day is doing in February (or sometimes January, as it is this year): "Itís called a lunar calendar. That means itís based on the moon."

The highlight of the parade, the dragonís dance itself, is more like a stumble at first, but "gradually the dragonís legs started working together. He jumped on one side, then the other Ö He waved his pointed tail in the air. He rolled his red eyes and showed his pointed teeth. His mouth was big enough to swallow the sun."

Follow a parade all the way to the end, and you might just get a treat. Sugar and Grandma do: "... Mr. Chu, who has the grocery store on the corner, Mr. Johnson who has the barbershop, Mr. Feng who owns the video store, Mr. Gonzalez who teaches fifth grade at our school, and Dr. Ito, who fixes my teeth." And one other person, but youíll have to find out who that is for yourself.

Kay Haugaard must have been a precocious girl herself, because her narrator sounds exactly like one. Carolyn Reed Barritt does more than justice to Sugarís vivacity; every one of her paintings is a knockout, from the surreal cover art to Sugar at her school desk, with the Great Wall of China and the 12 animals of Chinese astrology close at hand.

Take a dragon for a dance this Lunar New Year.

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books