This account of a childhood in Beijing, with occasional colour illustration, is beautifully written in a spare, evocative style. Little Leap Forward, a young boy who aspires to be a musician, describes life in one of the traditional courtyards of old Beijing. He spends his time flying kites with his best friend, Little-Little, learning to play a bamboo flute and looking after the yellow bird they capture and hope to teach to sing. These symbols of freedom and imprisonment resonate in the story as the Red Guards begin their campaign of repression and the shadow of the Cultural Revolution falls over a whole way of life. The author's own afterword provides a further historical perspective and a summary of what happened next to the friends and family members featured in his narrative.