The Case of the Goblin Pearls (Chinatown Series #1)

The Case of the Goblin Pearls (Chinatown Series #1)

4.0 1
by Laurence Yep

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Lily is excited when her famous action-movie-star aunt comes to San Francisco. Auntie Tiger Lil is in town setting up the Lion Salve float for the Chinatown New Year's parade. The float is sure to be a big hit, especially since Miss Lion Salve will be wearing the priceless Goblin Pearls that day. When the pearls are stolen in broad daylight, Tiger Lil isn't about… See more details below

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Lily is excited when her famous action-movie-star aunt comes to San Francisco. Auntie Tiger Lil is in town setting up the Lion Salve float for the Chinatown New Year's parade. The float is sure to be a big hit, especially since Miss Lion Salve will be wearing the priceless Goblin Pearls that day. When the pearls are stolen in broad daylight, Tiger Lil isn't about to let some punks ruin her plans'if the cops can't catch the thieves, she and her trusty side-kick Lily will. But our fearless detectives soon find themselves in the middle of a plot worthy of one of Auntie's movies. Is this the end for them, or will they live to sleuth another day?

Author Biography: Laurence Yep is the author of The Imp That Ate My Homework, about which Kirkus Reviews said, "Readers will not be able to put this light, funny fantasy down." He received Newbery Honors in 1975 for Dragonwings and in 1994 for Dragon's Gate. Mr. Yep lives in Pacific Grove, California.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yep (The Khan's Daughter, reviewed above) is off to a roaring start with this launch to a mystery series set in San Francisco's Chinatown. As it begins, 12-year-old Lily's glamorous great-aunt ("Tiger Lil") comes to visit from Hollywood. A whirlwind of energy, the 60-something former film star ropes Lily and her family and friends into helping with a float she's been hired to organize for the Chinese New Year parade. In the process, Lily learns a great deal about her personal and cultural heritage, and she and her "auntie" help unravel an insurance scam involving a stolen pearl necklace, as well as uncover a sweatshop operation at which the mother of one of Lily's school friends is haplessly employed. Snappy dialogue, realistic characterizations and a plot with lots of action keep the pages turning, and the layers of social relevance (the sweatshop story line; Lily's growing realization of the complexities of her Chinese heritage) add substance. Readers will look forward to more installments featuring this spunky heroine-not to mention her wisecracking auntie.
Children's Literature - Rebecca Joseph
Young Lily is excited when her famous movie-star aunt comes to San Francisco to arrange a float for the annual New Year's parade. Famous for a series of movies she made about detective, Tiger Lil, Lily's aunt is trying to finance a comeback. In the midst of their preparations, a gang of hoodlums terrorizes the community, climaxing in the dramatic theft of the famous Goblin Pearls from Auntie Tiger Lil's float. Lily and her aunt team up to try to solve the crime, and at the same time, they become involved in the lives of some poor Chinese immigrants. The tale captures the reader from the first page; not only is it full of suspense and humor, but it also deals with the serious issues of sweatshops and aging. If this delightful mystery is any indication of the potential of this series, I can't wait to read more.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8Lily's Auntie Tiger Lil comes to stay with the girl's family while organizing a float for the Chinese New Year's parade in San Francisco. A street gang called the Powell Street Boys threatens to disrupt the parade and steal the "Goblin Pearls" worn by Miss Lion Salve, and so sets the scene for the suspense. Although too many characters are introduced and not fully developed, this first title in a new series has real possibilities. The two heroines, Tiger Lil, a fading Hollywood star, and her niece and namesake, Lily, carry the story. The mystery involves the pearls, Chinatown, and a local sweatshop called "Happy Fortune." The bad guys aren't obvious right off the bat, but clue follows clue as events unfold and even though Lily doesn't intend to get involved, she is the one who pieces the truth together. There is a lot of culturally specific material nicely introduced as Lily discovers her heritage and makes connections at the same time that readers do. Some of the unfairness of the sweatshop seems overly dramatized, especially when the workers are so kind as to share their nearly nonexistent wages with a stranger. But there are some nice touches, such as tidbits left hanging in the air for youngsters to puzzle over before being explained. With enough fun and intrigue to keep the pages turning, this is a worthwhile series title.Carol A. Edwards, Minneapolis Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Yep (The Khan's Daughter, p. 68, etc.) launches the Chinatown Mystery series, set in modern San Francisco's Chinatown. Hired to design a float for the Chinese New Year parade, the colorful character actress Tiger Lil sweeps up from Beverly Hills, overawing her 12-year-old namesake, called Lily, with the force of her personality and exaggerated tales of classic stars and movies. Despite a recent rash of gang robberies, prominent landlord H.T. Wong and his wife allow their daughter to wear a fabulously valuable pearl necklace in the parade; though the masked thief who snatches it eludes Lil and young Lily, a series of clues and encounters soon leads the two sleuths to Happy Fortune, a sweatshop owned by none other than the Wongs. Along the way, young Lily (and readers) learn that Chinese culture and language are not monolithic, but full of regional and class variations; Yep also tucks an indictment of sweatshop practices into the story—to the extent that readers are likely to feel satisfaction when, at the end, Tiger Lil palms one of the recovered pearls for the exploited sweatshop workers to sell. Though the plot is built around coincidence, the lively characters and a well-drawn setting rescue it; presumably the many dangling threads will be sewn into future episodes.

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Product Details

San Val
Publication date:
Chinatown Series, #1
Product dimensions:
4.94(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.69(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Though Chinese New Year was a month away, kids had already begun setting off firecrackers. I heard the sharp pop-pop-pop in the distance down the hill in Chinatown. My parents had told me that firecrackers helped scare away the goblins and evil spirits, and though it was early, I suppose some people figured they might as well start now. The way people complained about Chinatown, its streets and alleys were full of goblins. Literally.

Dad came home with the news. "Mrs. Sung got mugged this morning."

"That sweet little old lady?" I wondered.

"She'd just bought her groceries in Chinatown and was on her way home," Dad said. "She's walked that route safely for thirty years. It was that same bunch of kids in Chinese opera spirit masks. They call themselves the Powell Street Boys."

"What's she going to do now?" Mom asked.

"Her kids have given her money to take taxicabs," he said.

"Good luck getting a taxi to come into Chinatown to take her just a few blocks," Mom said. "They say the traffic's too congested and trips take too long."

As I listened to the distant firecrackers, I thought I could have used some firepower myself. Some goblin was spoiling the loop routine in my computer program. I could have called up some of the others in my homework group, but the only one who knew anything was Akeem, and I didn't want to call him.

I was deep in the problem when the phone rang, so I didn't answer.

Mom's voice floated down the hallway from the kitchen. "Lily, will you get that?"

"I'm busy, Mom," I shouted back, annoyed.

"Chris?" Mom called to my older brother.

"Busy," heyelled.

With a loud sigh, Mom stomped into the hallway and answered the telephone. Her crankiness evaporated as soon as she recognized the caller. "Auntie Tiger Lil, what a pleasant surprise." And a second later she began squealing in a high-pitched voice like one of those quizshow contestants when they win a big prize. "What? No? Really?"

Curiosity drew me where duty couldn't, and I went to the doorway of my bedroom. Mom had gotten so carried away that she was hopping around. "Sure, you can stay with us. No, I know Henry would say the same thing."

Henry was my dad, who designed computer chips in Silicon Valley south of San Francisco. My mom, Mabel, had a beauty shop.

"When should we expect you?" Mom asked. "In a week? Great. And don't you worry about a thing."

Usually I'm the doormat in the family, afraid to say anything. If there's extra chores to be done, it's me who does them. And if we have relatives visit, it's me who gives up her room and sleeps on the sofa. So as soon as Mom hung up, I said, "I'll move my stuff, Mom."

Mom opened a drawer in the telephone stand. "Thank you, dear, but I think this time you can keep your room. Your dad will give up his study."

Dad's study was the holy of holies. "The study with his computer?" I gasped.

"That's right." Mom rummaged around until she got a notepad and pen.

Foreseeing future arguments, I felt compelled to point out, "The study also has the forty-inch television and the stereo hi-fi VCR. Where are you going to put those?"

"The Forty-Niners aren't in the postseason games. He won't miss it, and Auntie can watch movies." Mom calmly began to write a list of things to do. "A big star like Auntie will need to keep up on what's current in show biz."

Auntie Tiger Lit might have been an astronaut living on the moon for all I really knew about her. Every Christmas and every birthday she sent expensive gifts bymail from Beverly Hills -- but sometimes in her carelessness she left the price tags on.

"If she's such a big star, why's she staying here?" I wondered. "She's rich. She could afford a hotel."

"Of course she could," Mom replied. "But she's also family, so our door's always open to her. Besides, she has to be up here until New Year's. She's arranging an entire float and parade unit."

Mom was excited as a little kid about Auntie's coming to stay. I couldn't help asking, "This is what's always puzzled me, Mom. If Auntie's so famous, how come Chris and I have never seen any of her movies?"

"She made movies with Fred MacMurray, Alan Ladd, Maureen O'Hara and a whole bunch of other stars." And she rattled off another half dozen names I'd never heard of.

"Are they pretty famous?" I asked.

Mom stiffened. "Of course. And they can act rings around the film punks you like."

Personally I had my doubts, but I knew better than to get Mom worked up. "Were they silent movies? Or did they have sound?"

"That's it. I am going to go to the video store and rent Auntie's movies for you to see." And she added yet another item to the bottom of her list.

So that was how we began the Tiger Lil film festival that evening in Dad's study. Mom started out with an old musical, Make Mine Mink, from the fifties starring somebody called Doris Day.

Chris was a taller version of my dad -- as if someone had taken Dad and stretched him like taffy. Maybe they were too much alike, because they were always arguing -- especially since Chris had started high school. Almost every evening, he egged Dad into a fight.

At that moment, Chris rested the edge of his palm across his forehead as he scanned the film credits rolling across Dad's big screen. "Where's Auntie?"

For once, though, Dad refused to rise to the bait. Instead, he kicked back in his recliner. "She's coming up."

To my surprise, Dad had taken the temporary loss of his study very well. As he stared eagerly at the screen, I thought he was even thrilled that Auntie was going to inhabit his study. "There," he said, hitting the pause button on his remote.

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