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From bitter poverty to the stardom of the West - this is the extraordinary true story of one boy's great courage and determination.

The phenomenal international bestseller Before you can fly, you have to be free.

In a small, desperately poor village in north-east China, a young peasant boy sits at his rickety old school desk, more interested in the birds outside than in Chairman Mao's Red Book and the grand words it contains. But that day, some strange men come to his school – Madame Mao's cultural delegates. They are looking for young peasants to mould into faithful guards of Chairman Mao's great vision for China.

This is the true story of how that one moment in time, by the thinnest thread of a chance, changed the course of a small boy's life in ways that are beyond description. One day he would dance with some of the greatest ballet companies of the world. One day he would be a friend to a president and first lady, movie stars and the most influential people in America. One day he would become a star: Mao's last dancer, and the darling of the West.

Since its release in 2003, Mao’s Last Dancer has sold over 500 000 copies and been turned into a major feature film. Like millions of other peasants’ lives, it was a story that nearly vanished amidst revolution and chaos. It’s a story of courage, a mother’s love, a young boy’s longing for freedom – a beautiful, rich account of an inspirational life, told with honesty, dignity and pride.

Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780143574323

    August 15, 2016

    Penguin

    528 pages

    RRP $24.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9780670029242

    October 24, 2005

    Viking

    464 pages

    RRP $49.95

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Trade Paperback

    9780670040247

    September 1, 2003

    Viking

    464 pages

    RRP $32.95

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781742282121

    September 1, 2003

    Penguin eBooks

    464 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

Awards and Recognition

  • 2004
    Joint winner
    Prize for Writing for Young Adults
  • Australian Booksellers Association
    2004
    Joint winner
    Prize for Writing for Young Adults
  • Courier Mail Book of the Year
    2004
    Shortlisted
    Prize for Writing for Young Adults
  • Westfield/Waverley Library Award (NSW)
    2004
    Shortlisted
    Prize for Writing for Young Adults
  • National Biography Award
    2005
    Shortlisted
    Autobiography/biography
  • Australian Book Industry Awards
    2008
    Shortlisted
    International Success

Also by Li Cunxin

Mao's Last Dancer: Young Readers Edition

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