Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing
A sensitively written, real-life story about a boy called Little Leap Forward, growing up in the hutongs of Beijing in the 1960’s, at the time of the Cultural Revolution. Little Leap offers children an intimate and immediate account of a child’s experiences as Mao Tse Tung’s Great Leap Forward policy tightens its grip on China. - Amazon.com Age Range: 8 & Up
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Read-Aloud for Elementary-Aged China Study
Few resources are readily available for an elementary educator to teach about China's Cultural Revolution. Guo Yue's Little Leap Forward not only informs the reader (or listener in the case of a read aloud presentation) about the changes brought about by Chairman Mao's policies, but does so in a gentle way that is consumable for a students in grades 3-5. Yue's semi-biographical story meets all of the criteria that I look for in a book about China to use in my elementary classroom. It written by some from China, it is set in China, it is told from the perspective of a child, and it is realistic fiction/non-fiction. I have used it repeatedly as a third grade read aloud, but it could also be used as a book club book or for a whole class study. In whatever context a teacher might use this book, I recommend not to overlook Yue's afterward, a powerful piece that connects events in the story to Yue's real life childhood experiences.
Cross-curricular themes beyond reading or social studies class found in Little Leap Forward can be drawn with music through the erhu and flute playing found in the book, as well as science, with the connection to a pet bird and silkworms. Indeed, I typically raised silkworms in my classroom while reading this book aloud. Finally, illustrator Hellen Cann's artwork is exceptional. I am particularly struck by her use of perspective which quickly and effectively draws the reader into the setting.
Other themes in Little Leap Forward include China, Beijing, friendship, change, kites, hutongs, family, captivity and freedom.