Barbara's Reviews > Flying the Dragon

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
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Aug 29, 12

bookshelves: art, bullies, cultural-identity, death, families, friendship, languages, school, teachers, ncbla2013
Read in August, 2012

Fifth grader cousins Skye (born Sorano) and Hiroshi Tsuki have never met until now since Skye lives with her Japanese father and American mother in Virginia, and Hiroshi lives with his family in Japan. When Hiroshi's familiy moves to the United States so his grandfather can undergo treatment for cancer, the youngsters have nothing in common except a love for the elderly man who is a skilled artist and kite builder. But even that love causes problems since Hiroshi resents sharing his grandfather with Skye. Skye is resentful at being forced to attend school on Saturday in order to speak and write Japanese so that she can communicate better with her relatives, and Hiroshi is completely at sea in his classroom where his classmates make fun of his language and some of his actions. Although Skye resents being asked to translate for her cousin, she also tries to provide English tips about slang so that he can fit in more easily. The author does a wonderful job of describing the resentment and insecurities that fill both Skye and Hiroshi. The fact that both of them are somewhat lost when it comes to learning a new language provides interesting parallels for their experiences. I felt as though I were sitting in the same classroom with the two because of the vivid descriptions. When Skye reflects on how she chose to change her name, I thought about how unnecessarily cruel children--and adults--can be about the things they don't know or understand. While I liked all of these elements, I was particularly touched by the passages in which Grandfather tried to bring the two youngsters together by having them share their interests in the beautiful dragon kite they were flying. His approach to life--and death--are surely admirable, reminding his grandson that hearts matter more than objects. While I don't necessarily buy Skye's quick acquisition of her father's native tongue once she is motivated, I did love the fact that she embraces parts of her culture wholeheartedly. The changes in both Skye and Hiroshi are believable, reminding me that anyone can change for the better. This is an impressive authorial debut.
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