The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
By Wendy Wan-Lon Shang
Scholastic Books, 2011
Awards/recognitions: *2012 Children’s Literature Award from the Asian Pacific Librarians Association
Sixth grader Lucy Wu has life all planned out for what is sure to be the best year of her life. For starters, her perfect (and annoying) sister, Regina, will be leaving for college. That means Lucy will have her own room, become a star on the school basketball team, and enjoy it all with best friend Madison.
Unfortunately, the universe has other plans, and these include attending Chinese School and sharing a room for months with her grandmother’s sister who comes for an unexpected visit from China. So much for the perfect year.
Wendy Shang’s book is charming, funny, and a welcome addition to the canon of literature about kids navigating life inside two cultures. Lucy speaks lousy Chinese, prefers Italian food, and is mortified by Yi Po, whom she keeps at bay by building a dividing line in her bedroom – only one of the many strategies she employs to keep the old woman out of her life.
Lucy is the perfect strong girl in so many ways. She has a vision for herself, even in the opening pages, and when she’s challenged to change it, she doesn’t go down without a good fight. Sure, she eventually learns to widen that vision, but all along Lucy has the strength to face down her enemies, particularly snotty Sloane who has designs on Lucy’s spot on the basketball team.
Lots of books about bi-cultural experiences are dreary. Not this one. Wendy Shang gives us a strong girl who keeps us laughing. No matter what your cultural background, strong girls will find plenty to love here. MM