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The Legend of Auntie Po
Cover of The Legend of Auntie Po
The Legend of Auntie Po
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A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST Part historical fiction, part fable, and 100 percent adventure. Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she...
A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST Part historical fiction, part fable, and 100 percent adventure. Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she...
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  • A NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
     
    Part historical fiction, part fable, and 100 percent adventure. Thirteen-year-old Mei reimagines the myths of Paul Bunyan as starring a Chinese heroine while she works in a Sierra Nevada logging camp in 1885.

    Cover may vary.
     
    Aware of the racial tumult in the years after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Mei tries to remain blissfully focused on her job, her close friendship with the camp foreman's daughter, and telling stories about Paul Bunyan—reinvented as Po Pan Yin (Auntie Po), an elderly Chinese matriarch.
    Anchoring herself with stories of Auntie Po, Mei navigates the difficulty and politics of lumber camp work and her growing romantic feelings for her friend Bee. The Legend of Auntie Po is about who gets to own a myth, and about immigrant families and communities holding on to rituals and traditions while staking out their own place in the United States.
 

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  • Booklist

    April 15, 2021
    Grades 5-8 In a mountain logging camp in 1882, Chinese American Mei and her father run the camp kitchen and make delicious meals for the workers after their days of laboring. Mei makes the pies and regales the camp's children with stories, including the legend of Po Pan Yin, an elderly Chinese woman who logs the forest with her giant blue ox. Mei is accused of stealing Paul Bunyan, but Mei molds Auntie Po into her own guardian spirit. Mei must navigate an increasingly dangerous world after passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as her friendship with and growing romantic feelings for Bee, the daughter of the boss. On the surface, this story is the birth of a folktale, but the author explores much deeper topics: grief, family, loyalty, racism, and self-discovery. Mei's journey tugs at the heartstrings, and, while we want her to get her heart's desires, the ending reflects a more realistic outcome for Mei and Bee. Watercolors are beautiful and illustrations are crisp and simple, conveying a childlike air while tackling serious subject matter.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 10, 2021
    In 1885, following the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese American Mei, 13, works alongside her father at a California logging camp, feeding 100 white lumberjacks and 40 Chinese workers. In her free time, Mei regales the women and children at camp with stories of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, reimagined as the legends of Auntie Po and her faithful blue buffalo, Pei Pei. Through these tellings, Mei navigates the dangers and politics of lumber camp work, her yearning to hold on to her cultural identity, her burgeoning acknowledgment of her queerness, and the waning dream of university education. When tragedy strikes, Mei’s faith in her invented god, Auntie Po, falters. But by connecting with traditions old and new, and harnessing the healing power of
    storytelling within her community, Mei begins to recognize her agency in a prejudiced world. Khor (The American Dream?) straddles myth and harsh realities via stunning digital pencil and hand-painted watercolor art that highlights cornerstones of Chinese culture. Much will resonate with diasporic readers, though any reader will find Mei’s journey cathartic. Informative spreads serve as sources of logging trivia, and an author’s note clarifies identity intersections and historical omissions. Ages 10–14. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (June)

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from July 9, 2021

    Gr 5-8-In Sierra Nevada in 1885, three years after the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, 13-year-old pie maker Mei helps her father run the logging camp's kitchen. Mei, who is Chinese, also spends time with her best friend Beatrice (Bee) Andersen, who is white, and masterfully spins tall tales about a female Chinese folk hero named Po Pan Yin, aka Auntie Po, and her blue buffalo Pei Pei. As Mei grapples with her growing feelings for Bee, she suddenly starts to see Auntie Po and Pei Pei in real life. Rising racial tension in the area reaches a boiling point when Chinese cook Ah Sam and another Chinese worker are attacked on their way back to the logging camp. Changes are coming to Mei's life, and even the mother of all loggers, Auntie Po, can only do so much to help. The author interweaves fabulism and historical fiction into a well-designed, evenly paced, stirring narrative. There is a strong sense of place, thanks to stunning watercolors and Mei's informative narration of how a logging camp is run. The Auntie Po stories add a layer of humor or poignancy and act as an emotional channel for Mei's internal struggles. Mei's gradual queer awakening is treated sensitively as an important part of her story line. Mei; her father, Hao; Ah Sam; and some background logging camp characters are of Chinese heritage; the majority of the rest of lumberjacks are white; and there is a Black family living at the camp as well. VERDICT A moving read that skillfully explores themes of racism, privilege, and identity. A must for all libraries.-Pearl Derlaga, York County P.L., VA

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • The Horn Book

    Starred review from July 1, 2021
    In this graphic novel, thirteen-year-old Mei Hao shares her homemade pies and homespun tales about the eponymous Auntie Po (a Chinese Paul Bunyan-type figure of Mei's own creation) with her white best friend Beatrice Andersen and many other eager listeners at Mr. Andersen's 1885 Sierra Nevada logging camp. Mei works hard to help her father cook for the camp's lumberjacks, plus separate meals for the Chinese workers, who aren't given board or allowed to eat with the others. But she dreams of a day when she and Bee can open a hybrid bookstore-pie shop together, even as she realizes that dream -- and her unrequited love for Bee -- may well be impossible. While Khor's pencils are digital, the rawness and unpredictability of their hand-painted watercolors complement Mei's fluctuating emotions and the harsh life at the camp, where incidents of racism and logging accidents can occur, both devastating. Khor frequently uses the whole page for their illustrations and works outside of panels, techniques that aptly enhance the historical and mythic scope of the narrative and that ultimately affirm Mei as the author of her own destiny. A multifaceted addition to the historical graphic novel genre, this unique bildungsroman successfully presents many formidable topics with intentional and comprehensive grace. Niki Marion

    (Copyright 2021 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • The Horn Book

    July 1, 2021
    In this graphic novel, thirteen-year-old Mei Hao shares her homemade pies and homespun tales about the eponymous Auntie Po (a Chinese Paul Bunyan-type figure of Mei's own creation) with her white best friend Beatrice Andersen and many other eager listeners at Mr. Andersen's 1885 Sierra Nevada logging camp. Mei works hard to help her father cook for the camp's lumberjacks, plus separate meals for the Chinese workers, who aren't given board or allowed to eat with the others. But she dreams of a day when she and Bee can open a hybrid bookstore-pie shop together, even as she realizes that dream -- and her unrequited love for Bee -- may well be impossible. While Khor's pencils are digital, the rawness and unpredictability of their hand-painted watercolors complement Mei's fluctuating emotions and the harsh life at the camp, where incidents of racism and logging accidents can occur, both devastating. Khor frequently uses the whole page for their illustrations and works outside of panels, techniques that aptly enhance the historical and mythic scope of the narrative and that ultimately affirm Mei as the author of her own destiny. A multifaceted addition to the historical graphic novel genre, this unique bildungsroman successfully presents many formidable topics with intentional and comprehensive grace. Niki Marion

    (Copyright 2021 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

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