‘New Year Surprise’ is a book of ‘faction’ which combines both fact and fiction. The Chinese cultural background of both author and illustrator feature in this story which stars a winsome young boy anticipating the Chinese New Year Spring festival. Father promises a ‘special job’ for the boy with the entire village celebrating. What will be his special job? The boy’s excitement is contagious as he ponders possible jobs—hanging the lanterns, flying a favourite kite, choosing special food, serving tea, lighting crackers or holding the dragon poles. None of these is the boy’s special job. The jubilant moment finally arrives when Father announces the boy will be allowed to carry the ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ which will ‘bring good fortune to our village’. er
Each page is filled with brightly coloured, highly detailed artwork, with predominant reds, yellows and golds. These feature scenes of Chinese traditional home life for the family and activities around the village leading up to the New Year celebrations. There is much to see and discover on each page including both indoor and outdoor scenes. Look out for the inquisitive cat! One stupendous double page features the gigantic Chinese dragon being carried by the villagers and there, in the lead, is the boy and his father holding the ‘Pearl of Wisdom’. Surrounding them in a large circle are all the villagers joining in the celebrations. A final double page evening scene reveals the village’s snow-covered rooftops and a village at home for the night.
The back matter includes four double-pages of information about several Chinese celebrations along with illustrations that come from the book, ‘Long Established Customs of Chinese Celebrations’, held in the National Library of Australia’s Asian Collection. Christopher Cheng reveals he was inspired to write ‘New Year Surprise!’ when reading this book. Di Wu returned to Guangzhou in China to paint the illustrations for this book. He captured this story in a traditional way by using Chinese brushes and the colours of traditional Chinese painting on rice paper.