Parachute Kids

Scholastic/Graphix. Apr. 2023. 288p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781338832686.
Gr 4 Up–In 1981, Feng-Li, 10, travels to California from Taiwan with her family for what she thinks is a vacation, but her parents planned for the siblings to stay in “the land of opportunity.” They adopt American names for school, and Feng-Li (now Ann) holds fast to her “tomorrow will be better” fortune cookie paper, despite her struggles with English. When both parents have to return to Taiwan, the undocumented siblings are on their own, with older sister Jia-Xi (Jessie) in charge, and middle son Ke-Gng (Jason) resentful. Feng-Li plays peacemaker between her two siblings, but the three face frightening obstacles before their family is reunited. Feng-Li wonders, “How has everything gone so wrong? Aren’t we here for the American dream? So far it has been nothing but a nightmare.” But when her sister falls into depression, the plucky girl swings into action, inspiring her siblings to pull together, and the ending is hopeful. There are sometimes six or seven panels on a page, but the action and the characters’ emotions are easy to follow; red text in yellow speech balloons denote when they are speaking Chinese, black text in white balloons signifies English. A subplot indicates that Ke-Gng is gay, something his mother wants him to suppress, and his new friends reject him for. An author’s note explains that she herself was a “parachute kid,” and that the story is a mix of fiction, memory, and anecdotes.
VERDICT At once common and unique, this is a compelling story of immigration and family bonds; highly recommended.

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