The Mystery of the Painted Fan

Annick. (The Nguyen Kids). Apr. 2023. 128p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781773217710.
Gr 1-4–In this engaging installment of the “Nguyen Kids” series, eight-year-old Jacob takes center stage. He loves hockey, but when his dad takes him to buy a new helmet, a problem arises. Jacob wants a pink helmet like the one his friend Emma has because it will make him look like a dragon flying across the ice. Confused by his dad’s resistance, Jacob retreats to his room where he picks up his grandmother’s painted fan featuring the traditional animals of the Vietnamese zodiac. As Jacob traces the animals with his finger, they turn a glittery gold, and he feels a rush of wind like an invisible blanket wrapping around him and he knows it must be his grandmother. He’s happy when his mom says she’s okay with the pink helmet, but she doesn’t want him to be sad because “other people may be surprised.” Jacob says he doesn’t care what other people think and is happy to get his pink helmet. However, at the hockey match, people’s hurtful comments wound Jacob. The same bullying continues at school, making Jacob wonder who his friends are, but he never has to wonder about his family who support him doing the things that bring him joy. This is a wonderfully uplifting tale of a Vietnamese American family who is kind, caring, and supportive of Jacob. His choices sometimes surprise them, but they show up for him without judgment, but with encouragement and love. Expressive illustrations add a wonderful visual dimension to the story.
VERDICT A strong chapter book about family, love, and gender expression that is recommended for all libraries.

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