Thursday, August 20, 2015

Flying the Dragon

Flying the Dragon

Juvenile fiction
Skye and Hiroshi are cousins who meet under far from auspicious
circumstances. They are also the narrators of Natalie Dias Lorenzi's
very promising debut novel, Flying the Dragon. Young readers will not
only see the events of the story from two distinctly different
perspectives, but will learn about a fascinating traditional oriental
Hiroshi comes from a line of kite makers and rokkaku
competitors. (In rokkaku people use their kites to knock others down
until the last kite flying wins.) He and his grandfather are
preparing a special dragon kite for an upcoming competition. The news
that their family is moving to America so his grandfather can be
treated for cancer comes as quite a shock to him.
Skye, originally named Sorano, lives with her Japanese father
and American mother in Washington DC. Her parents haven't emphasized
the oriental side of her heritage. So it comes as quite a shock to
her when she learns that her grandfather, uncle, and aunt are moving
to her neighborhood, especially since she will be expected to attend
Saturday Japaness school to better communicate with her kin. That's
when she'd otherwise be on the All-Star soccer team she's worked so
hard to qualify for.
Hiroshi struggles with English and the confusing habits of
American peers. Skye resents the constant assumptions that she will
help Hiroshi and the behavior of a bully in her class. They battle
over their grandfather's time. Skye feels it's unfair that Hiroshi
has had this relationship all his life. Hiroshi feels that Skye is an
intruder, especially when Grandfather includes her in their kite flying.
As they covertly clash their grandfather grows weaker. Much to
his chagrin, Hiroshi has agreed to work with Skye at a rokkaku kite
battle in connection with the Cherry Blossom Featival. Will they be
able to pull it off? Will Grandfather live long enough to be honored
by a victory? What caused the enmity that had split the family for so
many years?
On a personal note, one of my favorite childhood memories centers
around a babysitter from Korea. Alla, a college professor, and her
son, Boris, fled to America from their homeland where they were in
peril. Mom hired Alla to babysit Harriet and me from when our school
ended to when the college she taught at did. Even in church they
faced serious prejudice--that they were heathen chinks and that Boris,
who was extremely girl shy, would take advantage of me because of my
skin color. Anyway the Halloween I was ten I had worked for hours
sewing sequins and beads on a skirt and blouse to transform myself
into a gypsy. Harriet was too sick to trick or treat so Mom decided I
should stay home too. Talk about no fair! Alla saved the day. She
told mom she had never experienced the wonderful American tradition of
trick or treat. Boris was to old to collect candy. Could she please
take me out. Mom couldn't refuse. Allah seemed to enjoy herself. I
treasured that wonderful American tradition all the more for almost
having missed out. Decades later I feel the gratitude.
A great big shout out goes out to Lorenzi who has taught in Japan and
Italy and now works in an American school where imigrants constitute
85% of the student body. I surely hope she will be turning more of
her insights into captivating novels!
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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