The Red Piano by Andrê Leblanc and Barroux (2010).
There aren’t a ton of picture books about The Cultural Revolution in China, but as China’s history fascinates me, I was very happy to find The Red Piano.
It’s an incredible book about a young girl, a re-education camp, and the piano that connects her to memories of her old life, to freedom.
“For several years now, pages from Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier have been passed round the camp, from hand to hand. The father of a friend sends parcels. Several sheets are hidden in each package. If there is an inspection, they are confiscated and she has to hope for another package.”
There is a piano, miraculously, hidden in the camp. Music is what helps the girl survive. Remember. Feel human, feel hope.
One day, she’s discovered, and punished. “The music in her heart subsides.” Until, another day, it is all over.
The illustrations are bleakly beautiful. Stark. Cream paper, ink gray, bleeding bursts of red.
The story is inspired by concert pianist Zhu Xiao-Mei‘s true story.
You may also want to check out the middle grade memoir, Red Scarf Girl, which covers the same historical period.