The Great Wall of Lucy Wu is a great book

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang; Scholastic; 2011; $17.99; Ages 8-10

I wish that I knew Chinese, then I could talk about all this wonderful book in two languages! If you are looking for some fun, lighter fiction to read or to buy for your 8-10 year old, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu would be a excellent choice.

Chinese-American Lucy Wu thinks that she is going to have the best year of her life: she’s going to be a 6th grader; going to get her own room now that her annoying, older sister is headed to college; and she and her best friend, Madison, are both looking forward to playing basketball, their favorite sport. But some unexpected and unwanted surprises are in store for Lucy. A long-lost relative is coming to stay with her family over the fall — and staying in Lucy’s room; mean girl and teachers pet Sloane is competing with Lucy for captain of team during the teachers vs. students charity basketball game; and, on top of that, Lucy’s parents are determined to send her to Chinese school — on Saturdays!! All of this combines to make Lucy’s year the worst she’s had in her whole life! But Lucy is about to find out that, sometimes, much like an old Chinese proverb, bad luck can turn out to be good luck.

What makes Ms. Shang’s first novel so great is that Lucy’s problems are not unique to young girls or Chinese-Americans. Many 8-10 year-olds experience disappointment in the face of high hopes: feeling not as good as their siblings or living up to their parent’s expectations; pressure from social groups and peers; being forced to attend activities or interact with relatives they think are uninteresting and “ruining their life.” Ms. Shang’s writing creates distinct and vivid depictions of each character within just a few lines without making them seem one dimensional. The interactions between Lucy and her family; both good and bad, have a realism to them that everyone who reads Lucy Wu will recognize. The story moves along at a good pace, which makes it a great read-aloud.

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