View from Pagoda Hill

Calkins Creek. Apr. 2021. 360p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781629797823.
Gr 5-8–The year is 1877 in Shanghai, China; 12-year-old Ning lives with her Mama, Sun, and their servant, Number One Boy. Due to Ning’s “unusual” appearance, biracial ethnicity, tall height, and unbound feet, her frustrated mother finds difficulty obtaining a suitor for her daughter. Ning believes her physical attributes are what make it arduous for people, particularly her mother, to like her. Seeing no hope for her daughter’s future in China, Sun sends for Ning’s long-lost father to come and take her back to his homeland, which he begrudgingly does. And just like that, Ning is transferred overseas, never to see her mother and Number One Boy again. Trying to maintain optimism on her way to New York, Ning is shocked to realize that the townsfolk have absurd assumptions of her and of China. Readers will take an unnerving journey with the young protagonist as she juggles her two identities, all in the hopes of one day having friends to play with and a family to love her just as she is. MacColl tells the heartbreaking story of a young girl immigrating to a new land and adjusting to different customs. Loosely based on the life of the author’s great-great-grandmother, MacColl’s novel will bring tears to readers’ eyes as they travel in Ning’s shoes, seeing the perspective of someone who faces biases and racism on a daily basis.
VERDICT A movingly empathetic tale for readers about prejudice, and the pressure to fit in with scrutinizing societies.

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