“The Little Girl” is a book by a local author (local to my hometown of Ann Arbor, that is) with a global perspective. A book intended not just to entertain, but to teach and comfort. The story portrays the relationship between Ming Zhu and her adoptive father, Li Feng, while the little girl grows up and eventually has a little girl of her very own. Ming Zhu, which literally means bright pearl, was abandoned at birth like so many others in her homeland. Luckily, someone was looking out for her, and she was soon found and adopted by bachelor, Li Feng.
The author Philip Wong had several goals in mind while penning this heart-warming story of daddy and daughter. “Instead of directly confronting the mistreatment of women in Chinese culture, I wanted to offer them a new way of being human.” Wong explains. “A children’s book is a more subtle, less threatening approach to getting the message out.” “The Little Girl” conveys many lessons to many audiences.
First and foremost, this book is for all of the young children growing up in the China. Abortion of female-fetuses upon gender screening and their abandonment upon birth is still very common. Furthermore, China has the highest suicide rate among young women in the world. “I’d like to give the Chinese people a new vision for their daughters”, Wong says. He provides additional examples of strong female role models through the bedtime stories Li Feng tells his daughter, notably that of Fa Mu Lan (who we in the West may recall from the Disney adaptation of Mulan).
This book isn’t just for a single audience; it is also targeted towards Chinese children, who have been adopted into English-speaking countries. For children growing up, wondering why do I look so different?, they need only turn to “The Little Girl” to learn more of the rich cultural background of China. Ming Zhu’s father, Li Feng, can also serve as a strong role model for young boys who have been adopted into the Western world.
Lastly, Wong hopes to show parents how to value their daughters, Chinese and American alike. “It can be frustrating raising children if you are just looking at the little things, problems, shortcomings that make up life. ‘The Little Girl’ spans Ming Zhu’s entire upbringing to capture the big picture. Life is about the bigger picture in the end,” tells Wong.
One all important role model introduced in the story is that of God. “Materialism is the dominant theme in China. People aren’t aware of a spiritual world. Many children in China will look at the illustrations of Jesus in the book and wonder, ‘Who was that guy?‘ That’s a great question to impress upon them. ” Religious imagery is rich in the story from Ming Zhu’s being found in a basket amongst the grass to Li Feng’s profession as carpenter and even his conversations with God when times get tough.
“Once there was a little girl who had a dream. She dreamed that there were two strong arms underneath her, holding her tightly. She felt the rhythmic breathing of the person who held her. She saw the smiling face. She heard the deep hum of a song. And the last thing she remembered in her dream was the kiss on her forehead.” Wong chose to repeat this passage in both the very beginning and near the end of the story. It shows that someone is always there watching over Ming Zhu from the very start, and, through it all, he never leaves her.
One of the many activities that Ming Zhu and her father do togeter is cooking. Click here for a traditional steamed fish in black bean sauce recipe.
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