HALF AND HALF

Lensey Namioka, Author . Delacorte $15.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-385-73038-9

Likable 11-year-old Fiona Cheng narrates Namioka's (Ties That Bind, Ties That Break; Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear) novel about coping with a racially mixed heritage. When Fiona must check off her race on an enrollment form for a class at the local recreation center, she has trouble fitting herself into the boxes. "I'm half and half," she explains to readers, "my father is Chinese and my mother is Scottish," and she balks at checking "other" ("It would make me feel like an outsider, a weirdo who didn't belong anywhere"). Despite Fiona's objections to neat categorizations, the author's characterizations of Fiona (she looks Chinese but likes Scottish dancing) and of her brother (he looks mostly white but enjoys kung-fu) at times seem a bit too symmetrically flip-flopped. As a folk festival approaches, Fiona faces a dilemma—should she participate in the Scottish dancing (in a troupe directed by her grandfather) or attend her author/artist father's presentation of his Chinese-inspired children's books, scheduled for the same time slot? Readers will identify with Fiona's struggle to fit in and the comic (if familiar) stunts she attempts (e.g., dyeing her hair, with unwanted results). The conflicts can feel artificial, and the narrative sometimes lacks immediacy, as Fiona tends to recount character traits and background rather than letting these unfold dynamically. While many will cheer Fiona as she reconciles appearances and family pressures, the conclusion feels obvious. Ages 8-12. (June)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-307-52969-5
Library Binding - 136 pages - 978-0-385-90072-0
Prebound-Glued - 136 pages - 978-0-7569-5680-6
Paperback - 134 pages - 978-0-440-41890-0
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