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Shanghai Messenger


Shanghai Messenger, Andrea Cheng; Lee & Low Books, Inc. 2005

Grade Level: 3-5

ISBN-13: 978-1-58430-238-4

ISBN-10: 1-58430-238-0



Eleven year old Xiao Mei enjoys the trip of a lifetime to China and discovers the value of her heritage and the importance of family ties.


General Review:

Andrea Cheng takes us on a journey through the eyes of an eleven year old girl using concise, well chosen words. Illustrations by Caldecott Winner Ed Young enhance the text with beautiful and sparing art. This is a poignant short story in verse with depth, precise word choices and good character development. A pre-glossary helps the reader with the pronunciation of the characters names and basic Chinese phrases and words.


Themes: Family, bi-racial, China, Grandmother, travel, overcoming fear, responsibility, heritage


Author Information: Publishers site, includes Book talk with Andrea Cheng, family picture, awards & national reviews listed.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think Xiao Mei changed her mind about wanting to visit China?
  2. What are some of the things that are different between Shanghai, China and your city in America?
  3. Being bi-racial, did Xiao Mei experience any of the problems that she feared she would in China? What might be a reason that she was worried about this?
  4. Grandma Nei Nei only read a little of what Uncle wrote on the fan. What else do you think he might have written?
  5. In China it is tradition to give a gift to help that person remember you when leaving. What kind of a gift would you give? Why?


Activity Suggestions:

Standard 9 Benchmark 1


  1. Students working in groups compare and contrast the writing style and or content of this story with other stories. Similar writing style stories (Lyrical/pros) : Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, What is Goodbye by Nikki Grimes. Basic story with Asian theme: Half and Half by Lensey Namioka , Chang and the Bamboo Flute by Elizabeth Starr Hill.


Standard 3 Benchmark 4


  1. Explore Chinese art, food and culture through the paintings and Chinese calligraphy found in the book. Study Caldecott illustrator Ed Young’s winning book Lon Po Po and look for any similarities in the art styles. Students may create a restaurant menu or other type of visual media demonstrating Chinese art, writing and culture. Play the Chinese word game on web:

Standard 1 Benchmark 5


  1. Chinese names are very similar to American Indian names. Names might be a description of something from nature or a descriptive name based on a physical or personality characteristic. Examples from the book are Wang Wei - Great King and Xiao Mei - Little Flower. Using the Handy 5 or Big6 problem solving strategy to facilitate research, locate other names from each culture and look for similarities. Culminate the activity with a “naming” ceremony and have students select their own name based on personal characteristics or possible goals in life.


Websites of interest: Find information and links about China including Chinese names, Chinese alphabet.



Similar Books for Further Reading:

Chang and the Bamboo Flute by Elizabeth Starr Hill

Brothers by Yin

China by Julie McCulloch

hinese Americans by Bryan Nichol

Cockroach Cooties by Lawrence Yep

Dragonsong by Russell Young

Exploring Chinatown by Carol Stepanchuk

Half and Half by Lensey Namioka

The History of the Written Word by Kevin Cunningham

Ho Lee Chow! Chinese For Kids by Carole Marsh

Honeysuckle House by Andrea Cheng

The Key Collection by Andrea Cheng

Tai Chi Morning by Nikki Grimes