Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 765
A Different Kind of Survival Story
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Like Gonzalez's Invisible, this book taught me things that I did not know about immigrant stories, and I'm excited to share this with my students who like graphic novels rather than have them pick up Big Nate comics over and over. Tang's style is really appealing, and she captures the 1980s without making the story seem so historical that modern children can't connect to it. I especially liked the fact that the speech bubbles were color coded as to the language that the speakers were using. This definitely had a Boxcar Children feel to it; I actually had a former student and her brother whose parents left them in another state when they were in high school because jobs took them out of the area, so I could believe all of the details. The Lin children, even Ke-Gang, were very resourceful and resilient, and I wouldn't mind seeing another book about how their lives played out.

I did especially enjoy Tang's illustration style, and the slightly Manga-esque feel to it will defitely appeal to young fans of the genre or of anime.

This will be perfect for readers who liked Lin's Dumpling Days, Kuo's In the Beautiful Country, LaMotte and Xu's Measuring Up, and, yes, Yang's Front Desk. Yang has a YA title, Parachutes, that addresses another facet of the practice of bringing children to the US even if the parents can't join them.
Good Points
Feng-Li Lin and her family travel from Taiwan to the US in 1981 to visit Disneyland and California. They have some trouble with their visas in the airport, but have a great time visiting. The parents surprise Feng-Li, who is ten, and her older brother and sister with the fact that they are not planning to return home because of political unrest. Because he would not be able to get a good paying job, the father returns to the country, leaving the mother to set up a household and enroll the children in school. The children start to go by the names of Jessie, Jason, and Ann, although Ann's brother is determined to keep his own name of Ke-Gang. There is another Taiwanese family who helps with the transition, and the daughter takes a shine to Ke-Gang. Ann has some trouble with English, and her teacher is helpful, even if the other children are not. The only other Asian girl, Rebecca Zhou, does not want to be associated with Ann at all. When their mother's visa expires, the three are left alone. For a while, the family friends are able to watch out for them, but when they are transferred to Boston, the three don't have much support. Jessie is trying to study for the SAT so that she can pursue medical studies on a scholarship at Harvard, but Ke-Gang is angry and starts to hang out with a group of other Asian "parachute kids" who have been brought to the the US to be raised by relatives or friends to give them better chances. He has a crush on one of the boys, but after someone sees them starting to kiss, the boy ignores him. Jessie is scammed out of $10,000 by someone pretending to be an INS official, and has trouble running the household while studying. Ann works very hard on her spelling, as well as making friends, despite the obstacles that she faces. When Ke-Gang is inured, Jessie must let her parents know, and get some help. The problems with visas remain, but the Lins are determined to make life in the US work.
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