I was lying on my back in the garden, hidden among the colourful wildflowers, staring up at the big silver sky. It was a lazy spring afternoon and the clouds were drifting lazily through the air.
Sitting up quickly, I strained my ears to listen again.
I went to lie back down.
Mei’s father has died and the family is mourning on their farm in rural China. Mei’s father kept animals but since his death, her ma refuses to have any animals at all. So when Mei finds two little chickens she knows she can’t tell her ma. She looks after them secretly, feeding and playing with them. But secrets are difficult to keep and her ma discovers them. She sells Mei’s beloved pets to the one-eyed butcher at the market. That should be an end to it, but of course, it is not.
When Mei’s father died, each member of the family grieves separately and differently. Mei’s adoption of the two chickens is her way of bringing her father close again. ‘Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets’ is a lovely story about wanting and caring for pets. It’s also about loss and learning to live again through the eyes of a young girl. It paints a gentle portrait of rural China at a time of change and celebrates the characters who habituate markets. Readers are able to gain in insider’s view of a small community. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets, Wai Chim UQP 2012 ISBN: 9780702249464
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author