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From The Asian Reporter, V22, #02 (January 16, 2012), pages 18 & 24.

Helpful people

Long-Long’s New Year

By Catherine Gower

Illustrations by He Zhihong

Tuttle Publishing, 2005

Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

The Asian Reporter

Hey, Long-Long! Wake up, we’re almost there!" says Grandpa to the boy surrounded by baskets of cabbages in the back of a bicycle cart. This is Long-Long’s "first time ever to ride to town," and the onset of the Spring Festival makes the occasion even more exciting.

A flat tire on the cart doesn’t dampen the boy’s spirits. "I’ll push, you pull!," he tells Grandpa, and the two of them move the cart full of cabbages to market so Grandpa can begin selling them. Helpful and perhaps also in search of adventure, Long-Long goes looking for a bicycle repair shop. He finds one thanks to a minor collision with another cyclist, a woman with a basket full of oranges, whom he also helps, earning the reward of an orange.

After the bicycle repairman patches the tube, Long-Long notices a number of people waiting for repairs and offers to help. The boy pumps tires "with all his strength" and the repairman gives him a shiny new yuan coin.

When Long-Long returns, Grand- pa is delighted to see him. (Who wouldn’t be?) Unfortunately, another cabbage-seller is getting all the business, even though her cabbages are full of holes and dust. Long-Long, ever helpful, wanders off, "trying to think what to do." When he arrives at a street restaurant, the boy’s helpful nature earns him, and Grandpa, and ultimately his mother and sister, the best reward of the day.

Filled as it is with helpful people, and only one minor villain, Long-Long’s New Year has a moral, but this is delivered ever so gently, accompanied by illustrations so rich in detail they deserve to be looked at slowly. Take a peek at Long-Long’s shoes, for example, and see if you can spot who is playing in the back of the bicycle repair shop. How many fish can you count from beginning to end?

Following the story are two bonuses: a description of the first Chinese Spring Festival and 10 Chinese words from the story, with ideograms and explanations. Long-Long’s New Year is made even more sumptuous by these extra treats.

Catherine Gower and He Zhihong make wonderful partners. Their words and paintings seem made for each other and they make Long-Long’s New Year a book you will visit again and again.

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