by Kit Lau
Joint Publishing (HK)
Thick though it may be, this book is certainly no door stop. Funtastic Festivities by Kit Lau is light, engaging, and full of wonderfully charming illustrations to support its messages. These latter are well laid out across the pages, so text and image go hand in hand, with cute characters and speech bubbles to further guide you through the whole calendar of Chinese festivities.
Part of the Hong Kong Pop Up Series (which has previously explored some of our city's daily life in Hong Kong Pop Up, Land-based Public Transport and Mobile Delights by the Cartful), this book revels in pop-ups. Where else have you seen a "fire-breathing" dragon almost leap off a page? (Red fibre optic strands make this almost life-like.) This very memorable first will have adults and children alike wowing in delight.
Funtastic Festivities is replete with many other magnificent pop-ups - jutting dragon-boat racers, toppling bun towers, lion dancers and temples all unfold out of the pages, to be explored and admired.
There can be few other educational packages that combine a board game (counters and all, with Western and Eastern holidays marked), fantastic colourful drawings, and the history of traditional Chinese folk tales and events in one place. Presented in bright, appropriately festive red it offers a veritable feast for the eyes as well as for young (and not-so-young) minds.
Enchanting scene-setting brings the celebrations to life on the page, with the three-dimensional element lending a sense of fullness to the festivities. The pop-ups are detailed - as you explore every nook and cranny, you realise there's nothing missing. This is, quite literally, a book that stands out.
Lau offers a personal foreword and keeps the content Hong-Kong specific, while elaborating on Chinese traditions more generally, including how celebrations may differ between the north and south of China.
Taking us through the festivities chronologically by the cycle of the moon - from the Lunar New Year, through the Cheung Chau Bun Festival and the Ghost Festival, to the Mid Autumn Festival with its fire dragon dance - it's unassuming, easy to read, and artful.
Filled with fun factoids (about food, decorations, practices), the book is also informative and detailed, without being overwhelming. The balance of text and illustration provides the perfect introduction to the festivities.
Funtastic Festivities is a vibrant book that will bring joy to anyone who opens it. In fact, you might be so busy showing it off to your friends that the children will be lucky to get their hands on it.