by Laurence Yep
Middle grade fiction about a Chinese-American girl who takes ballet lessons. Walking home one day, she takes an angry swing at her dancing partner Thomas- who always teases- and accidentally breaks the window of a store. Confronted by the angry shopkeeper, she agrees to work off the cost of the window replacement. It\’s a pet fish store. And the man specializes in raising angelfish. So you can see why I liked this book! The details about how the man cares for the fish- cautioning the girl not to overfeed, changing the water, testing pH, raising brine shrimp for the young fish and so on- is background material here but so familiar I delighted in it. Most of the story though, is about how the girl struggles to keep up with her ballet class while meeting this new obligation. She is cross at first because the old man in the fish shop is critical and insulting. But some of the comments he makes intrigue her- he seems to know a lot about dance and music, while apparently despising it. She determines to learn about his past, then finds her heart softening towards him and wants to help heal his bitterness.
This is a really nice story, but as usual when I read books aimed at younger readers, I wished for so much more depth. Especially when it handles tough subjects like the suffering that happened during the Cultural Revolution in China, and what it\’s like to live in a mixed-race family in an immigrant neighborhood of America. The setting was San Francisco, but the only feel of recognition I had was some street names! Regardless, I liked it enough that I\’m looking for the other books in this series- it begins with Ribbons and The Cook\’s Family. Once I realized I was reading a sequel, I figured that\’s why I felt like a something was missing- as if I should have known the characters better, but not enough was explained about them in the narrative. Still, it stands alone well enough.
Rating: 3/5 216 pages, 2001