The book I am looking for is a Chinese children’s book from the 1970s or early 1980s that had been translated into English, with illustrations in the style of PRC propaganda posters. My parents purchased it at a University book fair.
The book was divided into several short stories.
The first story was set in a kindergarten, and featured illustrations of the children working in the garden and growing tomatoes in the school garden. There were a few illustrations in which the children were wearing face masks, and were helping their teacher to spray fertilizer on the tomatoes.
A second story featured a little girl getting ready for school. On the radio, she hears that it will be very cold and rainy in the afternoon. She asks her mother to pack three sweaters, not just one. “Why three sweaters?” her mother asks. The girl replies that she knows that two of her friends have parents who are assigned to work far away from the village, and so will have left home early, before they have a chance to hear the weather report. The sweaters are so her friends won’t be cold.
A third story features children playing in a school room. There is one boy who is trying to horde some of the toy blocks, but he has so very few that he can build nothing with them. The other children convince him to pool all the blocks together, and they are then able to build a very big and impressive castle.
A final story is set in Inner Mongolia, and tells the tale of a girl and a boy who train horses. They have picked their young horses and are training them to ride in the yearly race, a very important event which will be attended by party officials. During training, the boy is bucked off his horse and falls, breaking his leg. His friend helps nurse him to health, but he is still angry because he has lost his chance to enter the race. When he is allowed to take off his cast and walk, he steps outside and finds his friend waiting for him with his horse – she has spent months secretly training it for him so that he can achieve his dream of winning the race.
On the day of the race, there are many, many horses. The starting gun is shot, and they’re off and running. Another racer’s horse is startled, and veers into the girl’s horse, knocking her off. The boy is in the lead, but when he looks back at his friend, he sees that she has fallen onto the field. Without hesitating, he turns his horse around and runs back into the oncoming racers in order to save her. And that’s why they’re called Chairman Mao’s little soldiers.