Readers of all ages should be prepared to laugh, cry, and sigh with satisfaction.

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BRONZE AND SUNFLOWER

Set during China’s Cultural Revolution (1960s-70s), this import follows the trials and tribulations of a poor, rural family.

Sunflower accompanies her artist father to the countryside, where he undergoes political reform at a labor camp. Left on her own for most of the day, Sunflower longs to play with the village children across the river. When her father tragically drowns, Sunflower is taken in by Bronze’s family, the poorest family in Damaidi village. Bronze, who is mute, and Sunflower form an instant bond and become inseparable. In Wang’s translation of his leisurely, languid prose, Hans Christian Andersen winner Cao captures both the infinite joys and harsh realities of rural farming life: Sunflower and Bronze picking wild plants or catching fish; the family’s struggle to rebuild their house after a storm. Yet despite their adversities, the close-knit family members remain fiercely loyal: Bronze hoists Sunflower on his shoulders and stands for hours so she can watch a circus; Sunflower deliberately fails her exams so the money for her schooling can be used for Nainai’s medical expenses. Eventually, the family makes the ultimate sacrifice but does it with the same grace and resolute strength they’ve demonstrated throughout the story. While seemingly idealized, the story and its protagonists reflect the Confucian values of filial piety and society above self—the very foundation of Chinese culture.

Readers of all ages should be prepared to laugh, cry, and sigh with satisfaction. (historical note, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8816-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

  • Newbery Medal Winner

WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER

A young girl bargaining for the health of her grandmother discovers both her family’s past and the strength of her own voice.

For many years, Lily’s Korean grandmother, Halmoni, has shared her Asian wisdom and healing powers with her predominantly White community. When Lily, her sister, Sam—both biracial, Korean and White—and their widowed mom move in with Halmoni to be close with her as she ages, Lily begins to see a magical tiger. What were previously bedtime stories become dangerously prophetic, as Lily begins to piece together fact from fiction. There is no need for prior knowledge of Korean folktales, although a traditional Korean myth propels the story forward. From the tiger, Lily learns that Halmoni has bottled up the hard stories of her past to keep sadness at bay. Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those stories. What she comes to realize is that healing doesn’t mean health and that Halmoni is not the only one in need of the power of storytelling. Interesting supporting characters are fully developed but used sparingly to keep the focus on the simple yet suspenseful plot. Keller infuses this tale, which explores both the end of life and coming-of-age, with a sensitive examination of immigration issues and the complexity of home. It is at one and the same time completely American and thoroughly informed by Korean culture.

Longing—for connection, for family, for a voice—roars to life with just a touch of magic. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1570-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A story about showing great courage and perseverance when life gets shuffled.

PLAYING THE CARDS YOU'RE DEALT

Spades is as much a game of partnership and trust as it is about cunning and trash talk, but when the deck seems stacked against Anthony, he’s forced to consider what it means to be a good card player as well as a good (young) man.

Ten-year-old South Carolina native Anthony Arnold Joplin prefers Ant; to his chagrin, however, the nickname “little man” has stuck. He’s short. He gets it. But when his spades partner and best friend Jamal’s constant ribbing leads even to Shirley, the cute new girl from Texas, teasing Ant about his height, he starts questioning his skills, his relationships, and how his so-called best friend makes him feel. Eventually, Ant and Shirley hit it off despite Ant’s being too shy to admit it, but issues in the Joplin household and Jamal’s own volatility put a lot of stress on this budding relationship. Ant’s father is an alcoholic and gambler with a lot of reductive opinions on masculinity that confuse the naturally compassionate and thoughtful Ant. Spades becomes a way for Ant to prove himself to his father and hopefully mend some familial wounds, as well as a compelling allegory for the ways he must navigate some uniquely thorny setbacks. A charismatic omniscient narrator explains the intricacies of the game and its venerable position in Black American culture. Realistic character and community portrayals give a difficult story a great amount of heart. Main characters are Black.

A story about showing great courage and perseverance when life gets shuffled. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-34853-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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