Jan Brett brought Chinese cultures to young audiences when she wrote Daisy Comes Home. A beautifully illustrated book about a chicken who runs her young owner’s coop, Daisy Comes Home delivers a glimpse of what day-to-day culture is like in the mountainside agrarian culture of China.
The colors, feel, and culture of China leap off every page, front to back, as we watch the journey of a very timid chicken and her owner’s efforts to rescue her from a butcher. The riverside village setting is the most prominent thing that first strikes readers’ eyes. The steep-sided mountains and distinctively Chinese bamboo huts are found on nearly every page.
Something else that is found on virtually every page is writing in Chinese characters. While the book is narrated in English, written Chinese characters are found throughout the book. While human and animal characters in the book both “speak” in English (as one would expect for a book to be read by young English readers) there are a couple linguistically Chinese references in the book; the young chicken’s owner is named, Mei Mei. She calls to her chickens “Gu Gu Gu Gu!” Mei Mei has a friend named Zhang. There is a reference to the Gui Mountains.
Even the animals found throughout the book hearken to the native fauna; water buffalo, red-tailed monkeys, and cormorants populate the riverside.
The village marketplace featured near the end of the story is just as significant to the display of Chinese culture in this book as Mei Mei’s village and the river which are found earlier on. The Chinese outdoor marketplace has long served as the hub of commerce throughout the villages and small towns of China. While western culture as introduced indoor supermarkets and malls to China, the outdoor marketplace still serves as a vital source of social activity and economical lifeblood for much of rural China.
Not to be overlooked in Daisy Comes Home are the smaller artifacts spread throughout the book. A white and blue crafted ceramic bowl serves as the bathtub for Mei Mei’s chickens. Mei Mei feeds her chickens with chopsticks. A woven basket emblazoned with red Chinese characters literally travels throughout the story. Mei Mei’s clothing, as well as that of all the other human characters in the story all appear to be wearing authentic modern-day rural Chinese attire.
Without a doubt, the book-inspiring journey Jan Brett made to China (as mentioned on the inside back cover of Daisy Comes Home) clearly gave this talented author the insight necessary to produce a well-crafted book that gives American children a genuine taste of China.
My reading of Daisy Comes Home. Brett, J. Puffin Books, 2002