Hundreds join Chinese New Year, Leo Politi event at Fresno Art Museum (video)

Loud bass drums and gongs reverberated through the cramped Fresno Art Museum lobby Sunday as parents sat their anxious kids in front where they could get a close-up look at a pair of red dancing dragons.

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” said Allie Lang of Fresno, whose three children joined dozens of other children for a day of Chinese arts and crafts to kick off Chinese New Year and celebrate the late Fresno artist and author Leo Politi’s 1960 children’s book, “Moy Moy.”

The ornate red dragons danced and shook wildly as they moved around the lobby, startling some children – and adults – in the crowd of about 200. Lang’s older children, Kenton, 10, and Landon, 8, thought the dragons were “awesome,” but Lang noted her youngest, 3-year-old Lauren, was “excited, but a little nervous.”

The festivities were part of the museum’s commemoration of Politi’s “Moy Moy,” which tells the story of four young siblings preparing to celebrate Chinese New Year in Chinatown Los Angeles.

The dance performance, as well as many of the bright watercolor paintings that adorn the museum’s walls, were inspired by the classic children’s tale that translates to “little sister” in English.

Several kids, some wearing Asian kimonos, made Chinese lanterns and dragon puppets and had their faces painted with intricate, themed designs — some of them of Chinese calligraphy and others, of course, of dragons.

“This gives great exposure to this kind of culture,” said Rosylin Bessard, a retired Fresno Unified School District administrator who brought her two grandsons, Damion and Jason. The two left happily with puppets and drawings.

The museum will continue its exhibit dedicated to Politi’s works through Aug. 30. Mary Yan Joe and her brothers George and Frank Yan were the kids who inspired “Moy Moy.” Now full-grown adults, the siblings read their tale Sunday.

Like most of Politi’s books, “Moy Moy” has been out of print. Limited copies remain available online through Amazon — the cheapest ones run about $49 — and the story was anthologized November in German publisher Taschen Books’ “A Treasury of Wintertime Tales.”

Denise Sciandra, a longtime friend of Politi’s who spearheaded the efforts to build a local library and Fresno State garden in his name, hopes the republication of “Moy Moy” helps breathe life to the story for a new crop of readers.

“Hopefully with the republication of this story,” Sciandra said “and with the four other stories that are available through Amazon and the Getty Museum, this generation of children can enjoy Leo Politi the way previous generations have.”