Thanks to Jen and Kellee at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for hosting IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Flying the Dragon
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
review copy provided by the publisher
This book hooked me by page 9, after two short chapters.
Throughout the book, the chapters alternate between Hiroshi and Skye, cousins who, at the outset of the book, have never met. Hiroshi lives in Japan with his parents and Grandfather. Skye lives in Virginia with her Japanese father (Hiroshi's father's twin brother) and her American mother.
Hiroshi is focused on competing in the upcoming rokkaku kite battles. "A member of the Tsuki family had always won the master flier title ever since Grandfather had first entered as a boy." This is the year that Hiroshi will enter the competition on his own.
Skye is focused on securing a spot on the All-Star soccer team.
And Grandfather needs cancer treatments that are available in the United States, not in Japan.
So Hiroshi, his parents, and Grandfather move to Virginia to live in a house down the street from Skye's family. No rokkaku kite battles for Hiroshi, and no All-Star team for Skye, unless she can pass into the advanced Japanese language class after Japanese Saturday school.
Natalie Dias Lorenzi is an ELL teacher. She gets the conflicts of language and culture spot-on perfect, both for Hiroshi, who is struggling to learn English, and for Skye, who is struggling to learn Japanese and accept her family's culture.
This interaction between Hiroshi and his ELL teacher broke my heart. I have had conversations like this so many times. Times when I know that there is a wealth of information and intelligence locked behind the barrier of language:
" 'I like kites.'
But he wanted to say so much more. He wanted to tell Mr. Jacobs about the kite battle he had to miss because he'd moved to America. He wanted to explain that the dragon kite was the first one he had made himself. Well, mostly himself--Grandfather had helped a little. He wanted to say that grandfather was a rokkaku champion and Hiroshi's best friend. And that he hoped Grandfather would get better soon so they could keep flying kites together.
'Yes,' Hiroshi repeated. 'I like kites.' "
One of the things I love best about this book are the believable ways that both Hiroshi and Skye grow and change. I love wise, wise Grandfather, and his role in bringing Hiroshi and Skye together.
I am in awe that this is Lorenzi's debut novel. I wish there were a William C. Morris Award, not just for YA authors, but for middle grade authors as well.
I've already picked my first read aloud for this year, but I'm pretty sure this will be my second. Check it out -- you'll be glad you did!
Author's website: Natalie Dias Lorenzi | Author
Author interview at Read, Write, Repeat
One of Jama Rattigan's amazing Book Birthday posts at Jama's Alphabet Soup