cover image Jade Dragon

Jade Dragon

Carolyn Marsden, Virginia Shin-Mui Loh. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (169pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-3012-6

Marsden (The Quail Club) and Shin-Mui Loh draw from the latter's life to shape this affecting if sometimes strained novel. Ginny Liao, born after her parents emigrated from China, longs to be best friends with Stephanie Bronelle, the only other Chinese second-grader. She is pleased when she's invited to Stephanie's house, yet is surprised to learn that Stephanie is adopted and her parents are white, and even more surprised that it was Stephanie's mother-not Stephanie-who had wanted Ginny to come over. After Ginny's mother asks Stephanie and her mother to a party, Ginny is thrilled when her father buys her a pink dress, almost like the one she'd spied in Stephanie's closet. But Ginny's mother insists she wear her cheongsam instead. With heavy-handed imagery, the narrative describes Stephanie's arrival at the party in her pink frock, wearing long white gloves ""just like a Cinderella Barbie,"" while Stephanie's mother gushes that Ginny, in her traditional dress, looks ""like a little China doll."" Desperate for Stephanie's approval, Ginny lets her take home her prized jade dragon. Ginny grapples with her guilt at giving away her treasured possession while feeling torn between her lifestyle and that of her more Americanized friend. Stephanie finally confides to Ginny her own conflicted feelings (""You think it's hard to be different from kids at school. Just imagine being different from your own mother and father""). Though the dialogue at times seems constructed to convey the message, the story succeeds in conveying the conflicts in these girls' lives and their resourcefulness in coping with them. Ages 7-10.