On New Year's Eve, the little girl from Beijing who narrates this story uses a pink feather duster to tease a lost cat down from a tree. Her parents allow her to keep the cat and ask what she wants to name her. "Let's wait until we get to know her better," says the little girl, and they wind up just calling her Kitty.
The girl bicycles around Beijing with Kitty in her basket, offering us a luscious view into life in the park, with a barber giving a haircut, musicians drawing their bows across the two strings of their erhus, and old people playing chess. Then they go the Dragon Boat Festival, crowded and resplendent with kites. Drawn by the enormous dragon kite, Kitty pounces, grabbing its beard and getting lifted into the air! Off she goes into the sky, with the little girl on her bike in desperate pursuit.
The girl searches all over the neighborhood, ringing her bike's bell, but there's no answering niaow-niaow from Kitty. Our hearts go out to the narrator when she reports, "My heart is down in my shoes."
What happens from there is its own special miracle of kindness and sacrifice. We get a bonus, too: a revelation of who the "Angel" from the book's title is.
Belle Yang is a wonder herself. She both wrote and illustrated Angel in Beijing, and her expressive ink drawings with bright paints abound with beauty, energy, and an intimacy with scenes of Beijing. Yang has also written and illustrated nonfiction books for adults, several other children's books, and a graphic memoir, Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale. Her work with many different ages seems to have given her a keen sensitivity to what makes a story universally enjoyable, so that Angel in Beijing needn't be limited to the preschool through third-grade children listed as its optimal audience.