A graphic novel in four parts, My Beijing includes stories about Yu'er, her Grampa and the 'Everyday Wonder' of their lives in one of Beijing's hutongs, the traditional neighborhoods for which the city is known.
Yu'er desperately wants to learn how to swim (her name means Fish Child, after all) but, because of an unnamed disability that requires her to use a cane, no swim clubs will allow her membership. 'People think I'm different, ' she says sadly to Grampa. He wheels her away in a cart attached to his bike, exclaiming, 'Oh, who cares what they think!'--he has an idea. The next page shows Yu'er diving deep down underwater; the next one depicts her dangling from a tree, hooked up to a pulley system with Grampa at the other end. From the ground, Grampa gives lessons in controlling breathing and finding balance: 'Just imagine you're in the water. . . . Do you feel like you're floating?' Yu'er loves her new 'pool' and swims in the tree until suddenly she's flying up through the sky, swimming out of her neighborhood and into the city. 'Go, my little Yu'er! Go!'
Each of the four stories has a wondrous turn that takes the reader from the simple, gentle mundanity of the everyday lives of Yu'er and Grampa into the slightly, but still friendly, surreal. Whether she makes a new friend who is actually her Grampa as a boy or she's mailing a letter into the past, Yu'er slips gracefully (and without knowledge) in and out of time in a way that leads to pleasant surprises rather than shockers. Nie Jun's illustrations are lush, the figures expressive and Beijing itself captivating in its detail. One hopes that this first work of Nie Jun's to be translated into English is the first of many.
Discover: Yu'er and Grampa experience everyday (and extraordinary) wonder in Nie Jun's My Beijing, a graphic novel for middle graders.--Shelf Awareness