BE WATER, MY FRIEND
The Early Years of Bruce Lee
By Ken Mochizuki
Illustrated by Dom Lee
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Be Water, My Friend
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 2–This picture-book biography is a gentle tribute to a martial-arts legend. The story follows Lee from his birth in San Francisco through his youth in Hong Kong. His family life, impatience with school, and legal troubles are touched upon, as is his growing passion for martial arts. The writing is clear for the most part, but can be awkward in places. Feelings and thoughts abound. For example, Gentleness? Bruce asked himself for the hundredth time, and, Angry with himself, Bruce punched the water. In an appended note, Mochizuki explains that since so little is known about his subject's youth, some events are extensions of the facts…. The brown-and-white illustrations, scratched through beeswax melted over acrylic on paper, are lovely and play an important role in moving the narrative along. Lee, who is often pictured wearing thick glasses, is shown interacting with family members, taking on opponents, and spending time in quiet contemplation. The book ends when Lee, at age 18, boarded a ship bound for America. The rest of his life is given a one-page summary. A fine introduction.–Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
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Focusing on the childhood and youth of Bruce Lee, this biographical picture book portrays him as a boy who made mistakes but learned from them. Growing up in Hong Kong in the 1940s and 1950s, Lee dreamed of becoming a film star and had little use for school. He took up martial arts, and though initially drawn more to its combat than its philosophy, he slowly began to understand the finer points of the discipline. When his fighting temper led to trouble with the police at age 18, his parents sent him to San Francisco for a fresh start. The book's final page, "The Rest of Bruce Lee's Story," summarizes the remainder of his life. By the author and illustrator of Baseball Saved Us (1993), this distinctive-looking book offers a smoothly written text and many handsome, textured acrylic paintings done in tones of brown and cream. With its sophisticated look and high-interest topic, this picture book has appeal for readers across a broad age range. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.