Bronze and Sunflower
2017 Winner of the Freeman Book Award - Young Adult/ Middle School Literature A classic, heartwarming tale set to the backdrop of the Chinese cultural revolution, with the timeless feels of Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea. A beautifully written, timeless tale by bestselling Chinese author Cao Wenxuan, winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award. When Sunflower, a young city girl, moves to the countryside, she grows to love the reed marsh lands - the endlessly flowing river, the friendly buffalo with their strong backs and shiny round heads, the sky that stretches on and on in its vastness. However, the days are long, and the little girl is lonely. Then she meets Bronze, who, unable to speak, is ostracized by the other village boys. Soon the pair are inseparable, and when Bronze’s family agree to take Sunflower in, it seems that fate has brought him the sister he has always longed for. But life in Damaidi is hard, and Bronze’s family can barely afford to feed themselves. Will the city girl be able to stay in this place where she has finally found happiness? (Amazon)
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A charming novel of childhood in the Chinese countryside
My name is Lea Ekeberg. I teach Chinese language at the high school level at Winchester Thurston School. Bronze and Sunflower is a Young Adult novel about two young children set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution. It is appropriate for high school, and I believe that it would be appropriate for middle school as well.
Sunflower is the daughter of an artist from the city sent to the Cadre School in the countryside. She plays by herself by the river during the day, and in doing so, manages to befriend a mute boy named Bronze who lives in a village on the other side of the river. When her father dies in a freak accident, Sunflower is adopted by Bronze’s family, and the novel tells the story of the ups and downs of their family life together.
I enjoyed the novel very much. Sunflower and Bronze are compelling characters, and the family’s love for one another through some very difficult times is touching. The rural setting is beautiful. I enjoyed that, although it is set against the backdrop of the Cultural Revolution, the focus of the book is on the relationship between the two children and the love of the family. Although it is, of course, the Cultural Revolution that brought Sunflower and her father to the countryside, the book focuses on the children’s daily lives, which are quite removed from politics but affected by economic hardships.
I read this with an eye to whether my students might be able to read the novel in Chinese. I think it would be a huge stretch, largely due to the length. Reading excerpts would be possible in upper levels, but it would probably be more effective to read short stories. I think it would make a great addition to any library; it’s a chance for students to learn more about daily life in the Chinese countryside during the 60s and 70s. However, I am unlikely to use it in class since I use materials written in Chinese.