Friday, October 14, 2011
Friday Review: The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
by Wendy Shang
Scholastic Press (January 2011)
I can't think of anything better than a good book, except maybe a book that gives no indication of the surprise inside, the kind of surprise that starts off good and keeps getting better and better. Wendy Shang's The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is just that kind of book and that kind of surprise.
It opens with a traditional Chinese story about finding the fortune in misfortune, creating a certain anticipation in the reader that this will be a thoughtful journey of self-discovery, a culturally rich experience. The beauty of this book is that, in a sense, it is very much a thoughtful journey of self-discovery wrapped inside a culturally rich experience; however, it's delivered with such wonderful wit, the fact that it has meaning is almost beside the point.
Lucy Wu, who narrates the story, is a self-proclaimed banana—a derogatory term that refers someone who is yellow on the outside and white on the inside. (In other words, she's more hamburgers and fries than Chinese dumplings.) With her culturally correct sister going away to college, Lucy is primed to have the perfect year. She'll have her own room, and she's set to take sixth grade basketball by storm along with her best friend, Madison. That is, until her grandmother's long lost sister, Yi Po, settles in for a long visit from China and her parents force her to attend Chinese school during basketball practice. Lucy copes by doing what she does best—erecting barriers of all kinds to keep from being too Chinese.
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is a refreshingly light and surprisingly deep (in a sneak-up-on-you kind of way). No dull, stereotypical dialog and tired pre-teen tropes here. Lucy's wit and originality make this one enjoyable (and memorable) read.
Source: I borrowed this book from the library.