The day twelve-year-old Clara finds a desperate note in a purse in Bellman's department store, she is still reeling from the death of her adopted sister, Lola.
By that day, thirteen-year-old Yuming has lost hope that the note she stashed in the purse will ever be found. She may be stuck sewing in the pale pink factory outside of Beijing forever.
Clara grows more and more convinced that she was meant to find Yuming's note. Lola would have wanted her to do something about it. But how can Clara talk her parents, who are also in mourning, into going on a trip to China?
Finally the time comes when Yuming weighs the options, measures the risk, and attempts a daring escape.
Sad Twist on International Adoption
Clara and her parents are still trying to cope with the death of sister and daughter, Lola, from leukemia. Clara and Lola were very close in age, and Lola was adopted from China. Clara finds it hard to connect with friends and get back to her daily routine, but while on a disastrous trip to the mall, finds a note in a purse. It, along with a picture of a family, is from Yuming, a girl who has been kidnapped and force to work in a purse factory in China. Clara's parents help her turn the information over to the Chinese consulate, but Clara becomes obsessed with traveling to China with the idea of locating the factory and bringing Yuming home with her. Her parents had been planning a trip to China to take some of Lola's ashes as a way to help with closure. Even though it is a financial hardship, the family takes off with a few day's notice, and soon Clara is putting herself in danger to try to find Lola. Alternating chapters deal with Yuming's harrowing experiences from her perspective, which include escaping from the factory with a couple of other children.
Like Brian's Lucky T, this book is a little far fetched but rather interesting. Yuming's plight is fascinating-- a girl from a poor but hardworking family is kidnapped from a local park and kept locked up in a factory to make purses. This is certainly an important story that needs to be brought to the attention of young readers in the U.S., and this book, like Schroeder's Saraswati's Way or D'Adamo's Iqbal, is a good way to do this, since it contrasts Clara's life with that of Yuming's.
This also is on trend for the level of sadness found in middle grade literature. As in Shang's What Home Looks Like Now or Appelt's Maybe a Fox, Clara is struggling with her sister's death and working out her own way to move forward.