Chang and the Bamboo Flute

by Elizabeth Starr Hill, pictures by Lesley Liu, c2002.

WHY

I am notoriously bad at birthdays.  Not all birthdays.  Just my own.

Other people’s birthdays? Love ’em!

My own?  You probably want to avoid me.

This year one of my favorite co-workers gave me a small square pot of “Lucky Bamboo” shooting up through a bunch of rocks.  No  birthday card or anything to denote that I am older than I was a day ago (even though this is ALWAYS true every single day) just a bright green burst of bamboo.

The bamboo is beautiful in a surprising way.

Each morning for the past week or so since it arrived the bamboo has taken me by surprise.  I’m not sure why.  I just forget it’s there and when I see those lush green chutes and waxy leaves reaching up toward the sky (er industrial drop ceiling) it makes me feel like the first time I saw the trees lining Westminster Abbey’s aisle for Will and Kate’s wedding.

I never would have bought bamboo to place on my desk.  But now it looks not only like it belongs there, but that it has always been there and should always be there.

Anyway, all of this to say I chose today’s book by typing “bamboo” into the catalog.

WHAT

This book has almost nothing to do with bamboo. There are no birthdays in it either.

The story is about a mute boy named Chang who finds a way to help his family after a devastating flood.

As a child I struggled with selective mutism.  Elizabeth Starr Hill’s representation of a mute child as a smart and empathetic character not just a target for the reader’s sympathy made the little silent girl inside me so happy!

WHO

Arthur “Boo” Radley would like this book.

Boo probably reads a lot.

(I have always imagined that Boo Radley is an avid painter.  I think of him behind those curtains painting idyllic scenes of Maycomb County with strange additions.  Like Godzilla climbing the court house or the Lindburgh baby hanging from a cradle below Jem’s treehouse.  One of my favorites is his portrayal of Napoleon doing a double take  as he strolls past Miss Maudie in her garden, you know Napoleon would notice a fine woman like Miss Maudie.  But it’s probably more likely that Boo just reads a ton.)

Chang’s heroism would be appreciated by a fellow social outcast like Boo.  They both are under-appreciated and down right misunderstood by members of their community, but that doesn’t stop Chang or Boo from caring about those around them.

Let’s hear it for silent heroes!

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