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Ji-li's Books - Red Kite, Blue Kite

Red Kite, Blue Kite
by Ji-li Jiang, Greg Ruth (Illustrations)

When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, fly kites from their roof and look down at the crowded city streets below, they feel free, like the kites. Baba loves telling Tai Shan stories while the kites--one red, and one blue--rise, dip, and soar together. Then, a bad time comes. People wearing red armbands shut down the schools, smash store signs, and search houses. Baba is sent away, and Tai Shan goes to live with Granny Wang. Though father and son are far apart, they have a secret way of staying close. Every day they greet each other by flying their kites-one red, and one blue-until Baba can be free again, like the kites.

Inspired by the dark time of the Cultural Revolution in China, this is a soaring tale of hope that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to love from a distance.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times

A child needn’t know the historical context, complexity or details of either the Cultural Revolution in China or the Japanese internment in America to sense the trauma they wrought. Even adults recoil from contemplating it. Yet two new picture books offer narratively strong, visually arresting and moving examples of why and how picture books can convey with immediacy and resonance the impact of profound historical events.

Tai Shan and Baba's story, desperately sad (though it ends happily), is tempered by the child's sweet narrative voice, and by the luminous, dreamy landscapes rendered in Ruth's ink-and-watercolor illustrations. Readers will welcome the delicious reunion at the end, while empathizing with—though not overly suffering through—Tai Shan's story during its melancholic passages.    

- Pamela Paul

Publishers Weekly

Ruth (A Pirate's Guide to First Grade) paints affecting closeups and dramatically lit spreads that ratchet up the tension as Tai Shan endures separation from his beloved father, Baba, who is imprisoned during China's Cultural Revolution. While Tai Shan and Baba are happily reunited, the anguish of their ordeal—which Jiang (Red Scarf Girl) portrays with scrupulous honesty—makes this introduction to Mao's China best suited for readers on the older end of the suggested age range. Ages 5–8.


An evocative and lyrical picture book about the bond between a father and son against the backdrop of China's Cultural Revolution.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 4—In this picture book, Jiang uses one of the unfortunate circumstances that many children had to endure to make China's Cultural Revolution somewhat understandable for young readers. While the pain of the situation is palpable, so is the sense of hope. The watercolor illustrations capture the emotional tone of the story gracefully, with the scenes from the revolution in sepia and the other background colors in gentle hues, making the brilliant colors of the kites pop. An interesting glimpse into a turbulent time, and a valuable story about love conquering distance.   

- Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

Kirkus Reviews

Set during the Cultural Revolution in China, a heartwarming tale of a father and son whose love never stops soaring. Though this is told against the backdrop of a dark part of Chinese history, any child coping with separation from a loved one may find comfort in this story.  

Children’s Books Heal

Ji-Li Jiang has written a beautiful poetic story about a father/son relationship that endures under the most difficult time in China’s history. It is a compelling story that teaches children about the Chinese culture and a little history at the same time.


Inspired by the dark time of the Cultural Revolution in China, this is a soaring tale of hope that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to love from a distance.