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The Chinese Mirror

Published 1988 by Irwin Publishing, Toronto 1988

ISBN: 0-7725-1707-X

About this book

The Chinese Mirror was Alice Major’s first published book. It is a fantasy for young readers, in the traditions of Narnia and Wonderland.

According to a Chinese legend, the mirror world and our world used to be separate and distinct. But its creatures, led by the Tiger of the Mirror, tried to take over this world. The Yellow Emperor cast spells to bind them, so that they can only echo the gestures of this side of the world. But some day, says the legend, those spells will come unwound and the creatures of the mirror world will become free again.

Twins Peter and Jennifer discover that the antique mirror Peter has been given by his grandmother is a window to that world of spellbound animals, and that they are slowly coming back to life. Along with their school friend, Stephen, they have to figure out how to re-weave lost spells to protect their world. They meet a vivid array of characters — starting with the Emperor’s imperious and crusty councilor, His Excellency, who just happens to be a fish.

The Chinese Mirror won the Fourth Alberta Writing for Youth contest, and was a finalist for the Canadian Library Associations Book of the Year for Young People. It was also selected as a recommended book by CBC’s Morningside book panel.

Experience the story

So, remembering his grandmother’s words, Peter polished the mirror gently with paper towels, then leaned his elbows on the dresser and gazed into it. The afternoon light was fading outside; a thing, prickly spring rain had started to fall on the window. The quiet little room seemed miles away from the supper preparations in the kitchen or the lights that were already turned on in the living room. As the minutes went by, Peter felt the pupils of his eyes grow bigger in the fading light.

Then he saw it again. That fishtail flicker in the upper right-hand corner of the mirror. It waved back and forth, back and forth, a dim golden gleam in the twilight.

A fish was swimming towards him out of the dim depths of the mirror, as though it were swimming to the side of a glass tank.


In The Chinese Mirror, Alice Major has created a unique and strongly interesting juvenile fantasy … It’s a well crafted tale combining the traditional fantasy elements of quest and duel in a clever and unusual way.

– Candas Dorsey, Edmonton Journal, September 8, 1988

If I had a favorite type of book when I was 10 years old, it was the kind of fantasy that allowed access to worlds that existed right alongside our own everyday world. I would have loved Alice Major’s The Chinese Mirror, a wonderful story of three contemporary children who are drawn through an antique mirror into an eerie world where creatures are beginning to stir from an ancient enchantment that has kept them frozen for centuries.

– Glen Huser, Edmonton Journal, October 15, 1988

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