Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat
Author: Jennifer Armstrong Illustrator: Mary Grandpre
Publisher: Crown Books © 1993 (Hardcover), Dragonfly Books © 2009
Genre: Children’s Books
Age Range & Grade Level: 3-7 / Preschool – 2nd grade
Chin Yu Min, the wife of a prosperous government official, lived a life of excess until an untimely accident claimed her husband’s life. She spirals from wealthy to penniless, clinging to her pride while rebuffing kindness from her neighbors and treating her staff poorly until the bitter end of their employment. The first day she go without food is the day her life is forever changed by a chance encounter with a ginger cat.
Chin Yu Min and the Ginger Cat visits a bygone era of China, introducing details of history and culture in a manner comprehensible for even young children. Ms. Armstrong’s prose is lyrical and beautifully crafted, giving the story a wonderful sense of flow. The illustrations by Ms. Grandpre are equally inspired and vivid. They capture the essence of the scene and action, drawing the reader deeper into the story.
The story of Chin Yu Min offers important lessons for children (and, let’s be honest, plenty of adults, too) in pride, entitlement and treating others with kindness. Chin Yu Min is a conceited woman who views others as beneath her, even when she is reduced to a peasant. When luck finds her on the first day she might starve in the form of a ginger cat on the docks, she convinces him to fish for her and considers her superior status vindicated. She becomes reliant on the ginger cat as she was her husband and continues her haughty behavior. It’s only when her arrogance costs her the ginger cat that she recognizes the error of her ways and begins making amends.
This is a great book for the busy mom (and her kids). In an era when it seems so many young adults have an inflated sense of self-worth and unrealistic expectations of entitlements, a story taking on the subject of pride is particularly poignant. Reading it creates a great opportunity for discussions about the pitfalls of arrogance versus the effect of being gracious and respectful to others, no matter your station in life. While I don’t expect this one book will alter the trajectory for any one kid’s life in terms of their behavior, I hope it will plant a seed for mine about being kind to others whether you are rich, poor, or somewhere in between.
Reviewer’s notes: We were given this book as a gift but sadly, it seems this book may not be actively in print. If you’re looking for a copy, I found it available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also, the illustrator is the very same Mary Grandpre of the Harry Potter books!
Thanks for stopping by! Happy trails and may the good books be plentiful. 🙂
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Cover art © Mary GrandPre