Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society

Mah, Adeline Yen. 2005. CHINESE CINDERELLA AND THE SECRET DRAGON SOCIETY. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 006056735X [Suggested Grade Levels 5-8]

CHINESE CINDERELLA defies compartmentalizing. On one hand it is fascinating historical fiction based on the Japanese occupation of China during WWII. The period details are presented fluidly and well integrated into the story. Chinese words sprinkled throughout provide an authenticity to the text. A bibliography, an historical note, years and signs of the Chinese zodiac, and a glossary of Chinese terms are included in the back pages. But it is much more than historical fiction. With jailbreaks, threatened American fighter pilots and other exploits, it is a grand adventure story. The author calls it fantasy as she develops the secret Dragon Society of Wandering Knights made up of orphans of all different faiths who discuss their religious beliefs openly and believably and train rigorously in martial arts.

CC is thrown out of her father’s home by her evil stepmother and joins a secret kung fu society that is honor-bound to help those in trouble. Honor, respect, discipline, and loyalty are depicted in discussion among the characters and in their everyday actions as the members of the martial arts academy actively train for a secret mission. Meditation and martial arts are clearly explained and cooking and other household chores are presented as matter of fact aspects of daily life. Although heavily plot-driven, the characters are distinct and mostly fleshed out by their family stories and religions. A great balance between fantasy, action, reality, and faith is believably presented in a fast-paced, multicultural, historical drama.

Invite children to experiment with writing the Chinese characters noted in the glossary. Older readers may enjoy drawing parallels with other Cinderella stories.

By the same author:

By Cay Geisler

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