NONFICTION

The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Biography of Bruce Lee

Scholastic. Feb. 2020. 240p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781338134124; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338134117.
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Gr 4-8–This laudatory graphic biography follows actor and martial artist Bruce Lee from his tumultuous childhood to his death at age 32. Lee was born in San Francisco in 1940 (the Year of the Dragon) while his father, an actor and Cantonese opera star, was touring America; they returned to Hong Kong three months later. Soon after, the Japanese invaded Hong Kong and Lee’s father agreed to use his fame to help Japan, safeguarding the family but leaving young Bruce vulnerable to bullying by those who considered the Lees traitors. Lee followed in his father’s footsteps, acting in films as a child, but disappointed his family by responding to disputes with violent street fighting. Studying kung fu taught him discipline, and, at 17, he moved to the United States, where he attended college, developed his own style of martial arts, and became an influential film star. Reminiscent of Lee’s kung fu movies, Di Bartolo’s bold artwork portrays dramatic fight sequences and expressive characters. Recurring images of a dragon that helps Lee focus are a refrain, and add an epic, otherworldly quality to an otherwise straightforward biography. When there are conflicting accounts, like an infamous duel between Lee and martial artist and teacher Wong Jack Man, Di Bartolo depicts Lee’s version of the story, or the one that presents him in the best light, without acknowledging that there might be another side.
VERDICT Readers will appreciate this admiring account of the film and kung fu legend, but should seek out additional sources for a more nuanced portrait of Lee.

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