Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Great Wall of Lucy Wu review

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
January 2011 

First line: "When I think back on it, I'd have to say that it all started with the Golden Lotus."

Chinese-American middle-schooler, Lucy Wu, is conflicted when her old-fashioned relative moves in... right into her bedroom. There are plenty of books out there about a put-upon kid who has to cope with sharing a room but this book succeeds in making all of the involved parties sympathetic and well-realized. Even though she's extremely short, Lucy has a passion for basketball, something her traditional (read: scholastics obsessed) parents simply don't understand.

Lucy's been
living under the oppressive perfection of her snotty older sister Regina for years and can't wait until Regina takes off for college so she can finally have her own room. Unfortunately, her plans are foiled when her parents inform her that her grandmother's long-lost sister from China will be coming to stay with them. Enraged, Lucy decides to erect a "wall" consisting of her bookcase, desk and bureau clearly demarking her space. As the year goes on, and her parents insist that she take Chinese language lessons (further cramping her schedule and endangering her ability to stay active on the basketball team.) Lucy really begins to grow frantic with the pressures that she's put under.

Lucy and her parents seem to be gearing up for an all out war. But, a sensitive, reasoned look at things eventually brings both sides closer together. 
I was heartened by Lucy's sincere concern about having her father leave on an extended business trip to China. She's quite ill at ease until he's safely home again. Lucy realizes that after school Chinese lessons turn out to be more fun than she thought. Lucy's mom comes to see that Regina has been far more insufferable than she had originally supposed, and sympathizes with how Lucy must feel about having her sixth grade school year turned topsy-turvy. And Lucy's great-aunt, although mostly silent throughout the book, also shows some spirit, not letting Lucy push her around, but realizing what a big adjustment this is for her, too. The Chinese phrases incorporated into the book add a lot, and this is a realistic middle-grade fiction with broad appeal - any kid who's ever felt academic pressure (and who hasn't these days?), sports fans, anyone who's ever had to measure up to an older sibling, or anyone who is interested in reading about how it feels to grow up in a multicultural environment will find that this book is a real winner.

Compare to:

Penny Dreadful - Laurel Snyder
The Whole Story of Half a Girl - Veera Hiranandani
The Star Maker - Laurence Yep
Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley - Stephanie Greene

I borrowed this book from the library.

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