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CHASING THE MOON TO CHINA by Virginia Overton McLean (Redbird: $15.95; 35 pp., illustrated).

July 26, 1987|LINDA MATHEWS

This charming picture book offers a child's-eye view of China through well-selected photographs and a straightforward text. With obvious affection, Virginia Overton McLean follows a young American girl on her first trip to China. The small traveler masters chopsticks, ponders the difficulties of reading Chinese characters and wonders what it would be like, in a country that dictates no more than one child per family, to grow up without brothers and sisters, and eventually without aunts, uncles and cousins.

Here and there, McLean dispenses misinformation and cliches: Once and for all, astronauts cannot see the Great Wall of China from outer space. McLean's decision to avoid all mention of Chinese-style communism is puzzling, too, in a book aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds. If the emperors and their Forbidden City rate a couple of fat paragraphs, why not equal time for Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping ?

But, generally, this is the best children's book about China in ages--and an antidote to "The Story About Ping," "The Five Chinese Brothers" and the other aging children's classics that depict China as a land of pig-tailed peasants and customs so perverse that they hardly seem the work of human beings.

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