3.7 4
by Laurence Yep

"Bunheads can't do anything right," Mr. Tsow told Robin.

After accidentally breaking the front window of a pet fish store, Robin commits to working off the cost of the window after ballet class-even though that means enduring insults from a grouchy old man who calls her a "half-person" because she is only half Chinese. Robin works extra hard to prove Mr…  See more details below


"Bunheads can't do anything right," Mr. Tsow told Robin.

After accidentally breaking the front window of a pet fish store, Robin commits to working off the cost of the window after ballet class-even though that means enduring insults from a grouchy old man who calls her a "half-person" because she is only half Chinese. Robin works extra hard to prove Mr. Tsow wrong and marvels over the uncharacteristically tender way he takes care of the fish, especially the beautiful angelfish. He is just like the Beast in the ballet Robin is rehearsing.

Robin is curious about what turned him into such a beast, and she and her feisty grandmother search for clues about his past. Their digging leads to a shocking story about the Cultural Revolution, and Robin learns how much Mr. Tsow has overcome just to be here, much less have a soft spot-even for fish.

Praise for previous books about Robin from this Newbery Honor-winner:

"An elegant tale of love and understanding."-Kirkus Reviews on Ribbons

"A searching and funny look at Chinese American family life."
-Publisher's Weekly on The Cook's Family

Author Biography: Laurence Yep is a two-time Newberry-Honor winning author.

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Editorial Reviews

Yep has written a series of books about Chinese American young people in San Francisco in current times—The Amah, The Cook's Family; Ribbons—and Angelfish joins that grouping of novels. Here a ballet dancer, Robin (whose mother is Chinese and father white), accidentally breaks a plate glass window in a store that sells aquarium fish and agrees to work at the store for an hour each day after her ballet rehearsals. The man who manages the store is an angry old Chinese man who walks with a limp and has an especially bad attitude toward music, ballet, and those who are half-Chinese. Robin slowly discovers that Mr. Tsow had been a famous ballet dancer in China many years before, and she also finds out why he is so angry (it has to do with his disgrace and humiliation during the time of the Cultural Revolution). While she is working at the shop with Mr. Tsow, Robin is playing Beauty in a dance of Beauty and the Beast, and her attempt to understand the attraction of the Beast helps her to try to understand why Mr. Tsow is so beastly. A group of elderly Chinese almost steals the show from the young teenage dancers in this novel. Robin's grandmother has recently come from Hong Kong to be near her family and she is funny, wise, irreverent, and just wonderful. How she barges into Mr. Tsow's life with her canes flying in all directions, winning him over, is memorable—as are her excursions into the Chinese American elderly community to catch the gossip about Mr. Tsow. Other wonderful elderly characters are Madame and her sister, Russians who run the ballet school. These older people have such dedication to the teenagers, it's inspiring: YA readers will perhaps look at the elderlypeople in their own lives in a new light. Those readers who love dance, and those with a Chinese American heritage, will especially enjoy this engaging story. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Penguin Putnam, 224p, 00-062676, $16.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-An appealing sequel to Ribbons (1996) and The Cook's Family (1998, both Putnam). Robin has just won the plum role of Beauty in the Beauty and the Beast segment of her San Francisco dance school's production of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite. As she and her friends are leaving the school, she playfully tosses her book bag at one of them and it goes through the plate-glass window of a pet store. The manager comes storming out, and Robin offers to work for him until the window is paid off. At first, he is rude to her because she is a "bunhead," and then because she is only half-Chinese. The relationship between Robin and Mr. Tsow parallels the relationship between Beauty and the Beast, as the girl slowly comes to discover that he is not the monster he pretends to be. Eventually, she discovers that he was the most famous dancer in China until the Cultural Revolution, when his toes were cut off as punishment for his "crimes." When the woman who is supposed to design the costumes and sets for the production suddenly leaves, Robin convinces Mr. Tsow to take over. The conclusion is a bit pat, but Yep does offer some insightful and amusing insights into the life of a young Chinese American as well as some historical facts about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. An entertaining read with an engaging and resourceful protagonist.-Marlyn K. Roberts, Torrance Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Robin, a half-Chinese, half-European ballet student, gets a lesson in modern Chinese history from a victim of the Cultural Revolution. In this new entry to the ballet series that includes Ribbons (1996), The Cook's Family (1998), and The Amah (1999), Yep continues to explore the disjuncture between modern Chinese-American children and their heritage. When narrator Robin breaks the window of a tropical fish shop, she goes to work there in order to pay the replacement cost, fitting in work between school and rehearsals for her ballet school's recital of Beauty and the Beast. The irascible manager of the shop is quite lame, but mysteriously knowledgeable about ballet for all his scorn of "bunheads," and Robin soon learns that Mr. Cao was once Communist China's most accomplished dancer, only to fall victim to the Red Guard's brutality. Robin's growing respect and affection for the old curmudgeon is set against the story of Beauty's love for the Beast—a hackneyed device, and one that intrudes onto the narrative development of this intergenerational friendship. The story moves along at a brisk clip, comic moments sliding occasionally into slapstick, and then taking a turn to the serious—the relationship between Mr. Cao and Robin's Russian ballet teacher is a truly touching meeting of battle-scarred Cold War veterans. Ultimately, Robin is herself relatively uninteresting, and the cultural tensions she alludes to never really come across to the reader. It is, nevertheless, an agreeably undemanding read with lots of ballet detail and peopled with memorable secondary characters. Middle-graders could do much worse. (Fiction. 8-12)

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.72(h) x 0.99(d)
570L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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Angelfish 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just picked up this book on a whim. When I started reading, I was sucked in. I loved this book enough to read it numerous times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about the Chinese Revolution. It is touching and informational.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a great book. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. It was a little slow at times but it had good ending.