Discover the wonders of everyday life with four stories set in Beijing, China. In My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder, Nie Jun explores life through the eyes of a young girl named Yu’er and her grandfather.

Yu’er is disabled, and relies on her grandfather for transportation. She dreams of swimming in the Special Olympics, but the family does not have access to a pool. So her grandfather fashions a harness to a tree that allows Yu’er to practice swimming. The message of the story is if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

In another story, Yu’er finds some neighborhood kids tormenting a butterfly. She tries to stop them, but they push her to the side. A young boy, Duobao, comes to the rescue. He whisks Yu’er away to what he calls Bug Paradise. Duobao shows her the visual and sensory pleasures that can be found there. From the sounds of crickets chirping, to the buzz of the bee, Yu’er imagines a symphony all around her. The scene captures the marvel and magic that surrounds us, that we are too busy to notice.

Yu’er has rosy cheeks and wears an orange and white cap with a tuft of her bangs hanging out. Her grandfather is a rotund fellow, who is always in a jovial mood. The artwork is done in the style of watercolor. The main colors used are orange, yellow, green, and blue. The courtyard residences that make up the hutong are naturally grey, but the author infuses them with orange and green window trimmings to give it a vibrancy. It makes the images pop out, and you want to absorb every little detail.

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder captures what life is like living in a hutong. These types of structures are normally found in the northern parts of Beijing. A hutong is an alleyway that connects rows of siheyuan. Siheyuans are residences that are built to form squares or rectangles to create a courtyard. These types of spaces began during the Yuan dynasty circa 1271-1368. When initially people think about Beijing, they might think of the Summer Olympics. A visual of huge crowds, historic buildings, and a place where tradition and the present combine. The hutongs as depicted in the graphic novel give us a sense of interconnectedness of the community. By being connected physically, communities become closer and cooperation is necessary for peace and harmony.

I found My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder to be a visual feast for the eyes and like a warm cup of soup for the soul. You can’t help but feel your spirit glowing. The story radiates happiness, and an appreciation for the simple things around us. Children will enjoy the visuals, and the character of Yu’er. The theme of the importance of dreams, and not letting your limitations define you will resonate with the young and old.

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder
by Nie Jun
ISBN: 9781512445909
Graphic Universe, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 7-11

  • Tanya

    | She/Her

    Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.

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