cover image Flying the Dragon

Flying the Dragon

Natalie Dias Lorenzi. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-58089-434-0

Skye’s family hasn’t spoken to her Japanese relatives for as long as she can remember, but her grandfather’s illness brings him, Skye’s cousin Hiroshi, and his parents to Virginia while Grandfather receives cancer treatments. Now, instead of joining the All-Star summer soccer team, Skye is expected to attend Saturday Japanese school and look out for Hiroshi. Hiroshi is equally resentful that he’s missing his first rokkaku kite battle in Japan, a shared activity with Grandfather, a rokkaku champion and master kite-builder. In short, third-person chapters that alternate between the two fifth-graders, debut novelist Lorenzi offers an empathetic and quietly affecting fish-out-of-water story, with both children struggling with disappointments, prejudice, language difficulties, and being caught between cultures. (Worried about spreading germs, Hiroshi wears a paper mask to school, mortifying his cousin; Skye, meanwhile, is overwhelmed by Japanese number systems: “[T]here was another set of numbers for birds and rabbits?”) As Grandfather’s health declines, the reluctant friendship between Skye and Hiroshi develops naturally and with gentle humor, as they find commonalities and a shared love for rokkaku. Ages 9–12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (July)