In winter, an old man enters Cat’s Eye Hutong (alleyway or lane) with his bicycle, fitted with a rack filled with candied hawberry skewers, a Chinese treat.
He hopes to sell all so that he can buy medicine but first puts down a box of fish scraps in the snow. He calls for customers, but none appear. The charming, naïve watercolor-and–colored-pencil paintings begin to fill with feline images built into the architecture. Then a small child wearing a white medical mask (sometimes worn to prevent the spread of germs) buys a stick of hawberries, but as she walks off, the man notices a white tail peeking from her coat. Other young, masked buyers appear; all have tails, and one’s mask has slipped, exposing whiskers. Finally, a human girl buys the last stick, and when the old man asks her about the kids with tails, she informs him that only “Kitties have tails” but points up to cats on the rooftops all eating the red hawberry sticks. Careful readers will remember the fish left “as usual.” This book publishes simultaneously with an edition in Simplified Chinese, which features simplified characters and transliterated text in a small font directly above the characters. Backmatter includes a glossary keyed to intermediate-level readers, three-to-a-page thumbnails of the illustrations with English text, and note with cultural background (sadly missing in the English-only edition); further Chinese learning materials are available on the publisher’s website.
A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese. (Picture book. 6-8)
When winter comes to Beijing the streets are full of peddlers selling candied hawberries and a delicious sugary, syrupy aroma fills the air. Maoyanr Hutong – (which means ‘Cat’s Eye Lane’) is on his normal route with his cart of candied hawberries. There is snow on the ground and an icy wind. Maoyanr goes down several lanes but so far he hasn’t seen a single child. It’s just too cold the peddler thinks. Now he’ll have to put off getting the prescription for his wife’s medicine again. Maoyanr goes down Hutong and after putting down some fish scraps for the cats, he huddles down on a step in a sunny spot, tired and dejected. Soon a tiny shadow appears from the rooftop above and then a little silhouette approaches Maoyanr wanting to buy some candied hawberries. Before long lots of children start appearing and soon he has sold out. When the children turn to go Maoyanr sees something very strange – tails are poking out from under their coats. It couldn’t be, could it? Written by Chinese author Donyni Bao, translated by Adam Lanphier, this is a real feel-good picture book. A magical heart-warming tale with charming expressive watercolour-and–coloured-pencil artwork by Di Wu that really captures the atmosphere of the wintery Beijing streets.