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Reviewed by:
  • The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer
Shang, Wendy Wan -Long . The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Scholastic, 2011. [320p]. ISBN 978-0-545-16215-9 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-6.

Sixth grade is going to be the best year of eleven-year-old Lucy Wu’s life. Or at least so it seems, until her parents inform her that Yi Po, her grandmother’s sister from China, will be staying with Lucy’s family until Christmas. Now Lucy has to give up half of her bedroom to an old lady who smells like Vicks VapoRub and gets up at the crack of dawn—and who is not and never will be Po Po, Lucy’s beloved, recently deceased grandmother. To make matters worse, Lucy’s parents are making Lucy attend Chinese school in an effort to get their American-born daughter to better respect her heritage, and they are threatening to forbid her from playing her beloved basketball if her attitude does not improve. Most readers will know where this is going, but the book’s predictability is not necessarily a fault here, rather just another comfortable element of a cozily hopeful exploration of family dynamics and cultural history. Yi Po’s gentle sense of humor and serious cooking skills inevitably win her grandniece over, and Lucy realizes that a connection to Yi Po is an honor, not a rebuke, to her grandmother’s memory. Though the relationship between Lucy and Yi Po is front and center in the story, Shang also capably portrays the family as a whole, presenting a fully realized unit that has both smooth and rough times. Bits of Chinese history and culture as well as allusions to incidents of prejudice and racism are effectively integrated without melodrama, leaving the focus entirely on Lucy’s preteen and familial experience. Her struggle to determine what and who is important to her will most certainly resonate with young readers. [End Page 298]



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