Danny Chung Sums It Up

Danny Chung Sums It Up
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
September 07, 2021
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Eleven-year-old Danny’s life is turned upside down when his Chinese grandmother comes to live with his family in England. Things get worse when Danny finds out he’ll have to share his room with her, and she took the top bunk! At first, Danny is frustrated that he can’t communicate with her because she doesn’t speak English—and because he’s on the verge of failing math and Nai Nai was actually a math champion back in the day. It just feels like he and his grandmother have nothing in common. His parents insist that Danny help out, so when he’s left to look after Nai Nai, he leaves her at the bingo hall for the day to get her off his back. But he soon discovers that not everyone there is as welcoming as he expected . . . Through the universal languages of math and art, Danny realizes he has more in common with his Nai Nai than he first thought. Filled with heart and humor, Danny Chung Sums It Up shows that traversing two cultures is possible and worth the effort, even if it’s not always easy.

Editor review

1 review
Love can bond generations.
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The book provides a glance at aspects of the Chinese culture, as Danny experiences conflicts with his American upbringing. The first incident occurs when he suggests doing nothing on a Saturday, like his other classmates. Danny’s father goes into another lecture about how they never take days off, and they expect Danny to have a better life than slaving away in the family restaurant. Danny is often given a talk about the Chinese Way and how he should work hard, respect his elders, and be grateful for his life. His grandmother’s appearance exhibits the diversity of Chinese culture, as her dialect of the language isn’t understood by Chinese from other regions of the country.
The book touches on different types and levels of prejudice. Despite the different Chinese dialects, Danny’s teacher can’t understand why Danny can’t communicate with his grandmother, Nai Nai. A classmate’s parents inform him that all Asians are good at math, while Danny clearly doesn’t fit that stereotype. This classmate doesn’t miss a chance to embarrass Danny, although he displays a suspicious kindness midway through the plot. Some Bingo players are upset that Danny’s grandmother is taking a seat even though she can’t speak English. Danny’s aunt thinks Bingo players are trashy, and Nai Nai should be lawn bowling with more cultured people. The aunt is very conscious of social status and doesn’t hesitate to share her thoughts with Danny and his parents.
Several characters undergo transformations, as they either reevaluate their prejudices or they finally get the guts to change their actions. Danny’s feelings about his grandmother, parents, cousin, math, and friendship change as he faces new experiences with each of them. That’s a lot of mind-changing, but it’s all for the positive. Danny’s parents slowly realize the Chinese Way might need some tweaking once they fully understand the relationship between Danny and his grandmother. Even Danny’s cousin changes her behavior once she finally rebels against her overbearing mother.
What didn’t work as well:
Danny’s bad feelings keep piling on during the first half of the book, and authors usually include some positives to provide balance to the character. Danny loves to draw, but even that takes a couple of negative turns from home and school. Danny must share a bunkbed with a Chinese-speaking grandmother he’s never met, he’s subtly demeaned by his aunt and cousin, and he’s teased at school. His parents tell him he should be grateful for his life, and his teachers aren’t overly sympathetic either. Even though characters in other books have been treated much worse, these events create empathy for Danny. This moment in the middle-grade boy’s life is a bummer, but it’s the starting point for his transformation.
The final verdict:
Love can bond generations. Danny’s struggles make the book’s opening pages less entertaining, as his life seems taken out of his control. However, his experiences with Nai Nai are humorous and heart-warming, and their connection grows. This book is highly recommended for lovers of friends, family, and growing relationships with grandparents.
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