The Case of the Goblin Pearls (Chinatown Series #1)by Laurence Yep
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.
Read an Excerpt
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.
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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