Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (ARC)

Flying the Dragon. by Natalie Dias Lorenzi. July 1, 2012. Charlesbridge. 233 pages. ISBN: 9781580894340

Skye and Hiroshi are cousins, but they never meet until their grandfather becomes ill, forcing Hiroshi and his parents to bring him from Japan to the United States for cancer treatment. As Hiroshi learns English and attempts to navigate the American school system, American-born Skye attends Japanese school and struggles to fend off the bullies who don’t understand her cousin’s cultural differences. Though they often find themselves as odds, one thing brings these cousins together - their mutual love for their grandfather and his passion for flying handcrafted kites.

Flying the Dragon is a beautifully written story about identity, family, loss, and hope. From the very first page, the words seem to flow effortlessly, painting a picture of Skye’s family, then Hiroshi’s, in alternating chapters. Even simple, mundane things are described in very specific and poetic language, from the “tightrope of cheese” stretching from a slice of pizza, to the “bamboo bones” of the dragon kite. The plot moves easily from one event to the next, peeling back layers of family history and emotion as the characters develop their connection to each other, and to their grandfather. The story unfolds so naturally, it feels almost like a conversation between the reader and the two sympathetic protagonists. Even historical details and family anecdotes are worked into the text in such a way that the reader never drowns in too much information. Lorenzi writes only what is needed to convey the story’s truth, and the result is close to perfection.

This book speaks to so many relevant issues - immigration, English as a Second Language, cultural identity, family secrets - but at heart, it is a story, not a lesson or a lecture. Kids will learn plenty from reading this book, but it will be because the story talks to them on their level, and not down to them from the point of view of an older, wiser adult. The characters are believable and well-crafted, their experiences relatable and interesting, and the story as a whole, is entertaining, edifying, and at times, really exciting. This would be a great title for a book club discussion, or for a family to read together. It compares well to books like The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, in which a young Chinese-American girl must share a room with her Chinese aunt, or Same Sun Here, where two kids from different cultures form a strong friendship based on their differences as well as their similarities.

Flying the Dragon is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. It will be available in bookstores and at charlesbridge.com on July 1st. For links to more reviews and status updates from the author, like the book on Facebook, or visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s website.

I received a finished review copy of Flying the Dragon from Charlesbridge Publishing. 

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

11 comments :

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Katie!

    Natalie

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  2. This sounds like such a lovely book. Thank you for reviewing it. I've read THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU, and I'm looking forward to reading this.

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  3. Oh what a beautiful review! I love Natalie and I know I will love FLYING THE DRAGON. I can't wait to read it...

    Thank you for this.

    Tam

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  4. Tightrope of cheese! What a beautiful, poetic, and hilarious description. Thanks for posting this strong review, and it definitely sounds like a wonderful book. I'm looking forward to reading this one, and thanks for sharing!

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    1. Isn't that a great description? Enjoy it - it's lovely!

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  5. I just finished this book and I agree! Your review is really nice and thorough. This book has stuck with me. I love so much about it.

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  6. Your review is spot on! My son and I have both read the book and thought it was great. I'm hoping it leads to kite battles in our future. :)

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  7. This is a wonderful, insightful, and thoughtful review, Katie. Thank you, and I agree with you 100%!

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