cover image The Secret Battle of Evan Pao

The Secret Battle of Evan Pao

Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-338-67885-7

When 12-year-old Evan Pao moves cross-country with his older sister, teenage Celeste, and their newly single mother, the family hopes for a fresh start following their father’s involvement in a local investment scheme—and his subsequent disappearance with the money. Though “Evan had a sense for lies,” feeling physical sensations when there’s a “mismatch between what someone was saying and what they were really feeling,” he struggles to trust it, especially since he couldn’t detect his father’s scheme. Leaving their racially diverse California neighborhood for Virginia, where the only person they know is the children’s uncle Joe, Evan is shocked to learn that he is Battlefield Elementary’s only Asian American student. Though he makes friends, he also catches the attention of a bully and observes the town’s deeply rooted Civil War pride, including a reenactment at school, through which Evan eventually learns that Chinese people were involved in the U.S. Civil War. Told through a range of alternating perspectives, the thoughtfully rendered text explores with empathy the way the town navigates a Chinese American family’s arrival, and works in themes of community, justice, and trust through the past and present. Shang (Not Your All-American Girl) crafts a well-paced and nuanced story that follows Evan’s growing stronger in his sense of self. Ages 8–12. (June)