fiction favorites…Little Pear

Little Pear: The Story of a Little Chinese Boy, written and illustrated by Eleanor Frances Lattimore

“Little Pear stopped short with his mouth wide open.  For the man was simply laden down with tang-hulurs, which were Little Pear’s favorite candy.  He looked at the red fruit, eight or ten on a stick, all covered with candied syrup, and he jingled his string of pennies.  He thought that he would be perfectly happy if he could have a tang-hulur…Little Pear untied the string [of money] and gave the man two of his precious pennies.  Then he started on toward the toy shop, nibbling at his tang-hulur.
The toy shop was very wonderful.  There were wooden swords painted in pink and green and gold.  There were funny little monkeys made of clay covered over with chicken feathers, and round boxes made of gourds, all delicately carved.  The boxes were stained orange or green or brown, and they had crickets inside of them that made a queer little singing noise with their wings.  There were cloth tigers, with smiling faces and green glass eyes.  And, yes, there were tops!  Tops of all colors, striped and plain.

Little Pear is a very young Chinese boy, living in a small Chinese village in the early 1900s.  He lives a carefree life, with his two sisters and his mother and father.  Like many children, Little Pear is quite a curious little boy.  In fact, his family would say he is more than a bit naughty at times.  In any case, Little Pear certainly winds up having many adventures.

He almost blows away when flying his kite one very windy day, and accidentally burns a hole in his brand new clothes with a New Year’s firecracker.  He gets a big ol’ tummy ache from eating green peaches, and stows away in his father’s market cart so he can finagle a trip to the fair.  He falls into the river and almost drowns before being rescued by a houseboat family; he rides piggy-back to the city on the shoulders of a stranger.  Everywhere Little Pear turns and everything he touches seems to result in some sort of mishap that needs sorting out!

Eleanor Lattimore was born in Shanghai in 1904 and grew up there until she was about 16 years old.  She draws from her experiences there to paint a detailed and vivid picture of China in this era — the foods and festivals, the houses and shops; pigeons with reed whistles tied to their tails, and flat wooden skates to push-kick along the ice.  Having studied art before launching into a prolific writing career, Lattimore illustrated almost all of her own books with charming, authentic cameos of her characters and their surroundings.  This was her first book, published in 1931, and  there are several Little Pear sequels.

This book makes a great read-aloud for very young children, and in fact, a good choice for a very first “chapter book” read-aloud.  It also works well for young independent readers. 

Amazon link:  Little Pear (Odyssey Classics (Odyssey Classics))