News and Events

Ms. Yingling Reads Provides Wonderful Review of Small Footsteps in the Land of the Dragon June 21 2015

Ms. Yingling Reads website recently provided a review of Small Footsteps in the Land of the Dragon by Barbara Brooks Wallace. See below to read the wonderful review.

When I look for diversity in middle grade literature, it often turns out to be books set in the US with characters from other cultures. The following memoir, by award winning middle grade writer Barbara Brooks Wallace, puts a spin on that. Ms. Wallace was born in China to US parents, and spent most of her first 15 years there! For our diversity today, we'll find out what it's like to be the "foreign" one!

7188376Wallace, Barbara Brooks. Small Footsteps in the Land of the Dragon
Commonwealth Books, LLC (July 31, 2009)
Copy purchased from

Growing up in the 1920s and 30s was very different from children's experiences today, and growing up in China has a whole different set of issues. This engaging memoir tells of the Brooks family's experiences living  in China because of the father's work with Standard Oil. They lived in several different locations, at one point two blocks from the fabled Yangtze River. There was no air conditioning in those days, so the best place to be in the summers was the mountains (where the children would be carried up in sedan chairs by coolies!) or the beach. There are countless other examples of the ways in which ordinary life was different in China at that time, from ordinary events such as sleeping under mosquito netting and speculating about the mysterious, wealthy neighbors, to historical ones such as General Chiang K'ai-shek's communist "witch hunt" that students today will find different and fascinating.

We do get a good look at what the expatriate life was like, and learn about places in China that probably no longer exist. I would love to see the Ching Ming apartments in Hankow, decorated with the Chinese manufactured furniture purchased by Bobbie's mother (who left Russia to live with relatives in Shanghai) or be able to stroll through the streets of Shanghai before the Japanese invaded. The country clubs and British schools are part of a pre-war China that quickly faded in the same way that servants and English Manor houses (ala Downton Abbey) went by the wayside in the UK.  While well-to-do families in some countries today still have maids and other servants, it is a very odd concept to most middle class students in the US, so reading about amahs, house boys and other servants will be a revelation to today's your readers.

The best part, for me, was reading about the facets of childhood that were typical of the time period. Tiger Time annuals, dolls and teddy bears, and even the way that Bobbie's poor health was treated all seem so unheard of to us today, and are a good reminder that the world changes.

Readers of Ms. Wallace's Victorian mysteries will be pleased to know more about the author's life, and this would be a good resource for author reports as well. More than that, it is a delightfully distracting look at a world that no longer exists, told by a master storyteller looking back fondly on her life.

Watch a delightful video of Ms. Wallace reading from a previous book, Diary of a Little Devil. Pangea also has a wonderful album of photos I wish had been in the book available on their website.

To read the full review please visit