Honeysuckle House

Honeysuckle House

3.0 2
by Andrea Cheng
     
 

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Alienation, longing, prejudice, and cultural difference is touched on in this immigrant story told in the voices of two ten-year-old girls. Sarah and Tina are fourth graders. The most important thing in the world to Sarah — American-born Chinese — is the recent departure of her best friend, Victoria. She misses her terribly. Tina has just recently moved

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Overview

Alienation, longing, prejudice, and cultural difference is touched on in this immigrant story told in the voices of two ten-year-old girls. Sarah and Tina are fourth graders. The most important thing in the world to Sarah — American-born Chinese — is the recent departure of her best friend, Victoria. She misses her terribly. Tina has just recently moved to Cincinnati from Shanghai, and is trying to make sense of a whole new world — pretty much clueless to all the things Sarah is hip to.

The two girls are paired together in school, as if Asian appearance were proof of parallel lives and experience. ("I don't speak Chinese," Sarah keeps having to explain.) It's the daily, common stuff of childhood intrigue that finally manages to connect their stories and forge a friendship. A whole constellation of adult concerns swirl around them — green card worries, assimilation, absent fathers, family tensions — but Andrea Cheng remains true to the heart and voice and vision of two ten-year-old girls, in a story which blends tears and games, drama and play.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

* "With a smoothly drawn and interesting plot, strong characters, and graceful writing, the story has more immediacy than much realistic contemporary fiction." --School Library Journal, starred review

"This deft character-driven story about two ten-year-old girls rings with clarity. . . . Honesty and subtlety co-exist in Cheng's thoughtful, never-didactic writing." --Kirkus Reviews

"This will satisfy readers not quite ready for An Na's immigrant drama Step From Heaven, or those simply looking for a different take on the old story of new friendship." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Publishers Weekly
Alternating between the perspectives of two fourth-grade narrators, Cheng (Marika) proves herself a gifted and sympathetic observer of middle-graders' conflicts and concerns. In the opening chapter, Sarah tries to make sense of the news from her best friend and next-door neighbor, Victoria, that she is moving. Victoria's mother isn't reliable, there's no moving van, and Victoria doesn't know where they're going. But that afternoon Victoria and her mom leave, with some but not all of their things. At school Sarah feels bereaved and alarmed when Victoria's seat gets filled by a new girl, Tina, just arrived from China. Sarah, who is Chinese-American, steels herself: "I'll have to tell everyone all over again I don't speak Chinese." Tina brings her voice to the next chapter, describing her trip from Shanghai to join her parents in America. Cheng uses perceptive details to highlight the enormity of the adjustments Tina must make. Separated from her mother for more than a year, Tina almost doesn't recognize her because her smell has changed her soft perfume has been replaced by an alien scent. "When I smelled the sharp soap," Tina says, she finally understands why her grandmother has told her to be brave. Both Tina and Sarah must come to terms with classmates and teachers who assume that their Chinese facial features confer automatic intimacy and affection, allowing Cheng to make important points about assimilation and prejudice. Eventually, however, the mystery of Victoria's disappearance opens a path for the two girls to channel their feelings of loss and, in the process, create a genuine friendship. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
People are more alike than different. The reader is engaged through the use of two 10- year-old narrators, Sarah and Tiang, who relate the story in alternating chapters. Sarah, a Chinese American who does not speak any Chinese, is coping with the loss of her best friend, as well as her father's job which requires him to be absent from home for extended periods of time. Tiang, a Chinese girl, enters Sarah's school and is upset with her new surroundings, her father's endeavors to get a green card, and adapting to a new school. Paired together by their teacher, the two girls strive to find mutual ground for understanding. They not only have to work through their problems, but they also must deal with the stereotyping by others. When they eventually open up to each other, they find that there is a basis for friendship. 2004, Front Street, 136 pp., Ages young adult.
—Joy Frerichs
Children's Literature
Sarah, a Chinese-American fourth grader, is going through a tough time. Her best friend has moved away. Her father is away on business more than he is at home. And she is tired of hearing classmates assume she can speak Chinese just because she looks Chinese. Ting is a Chinese girl, who has just moved to Ohio from China to join her parents. She is placed in Sarah's class, much to Sarah's dismay. "Why couldn't the new girl join the other fourth grade class?... Is it because I am Chinese that they picked Miss Renfro's?" When her teacher introduces Ting to the class, the boy behind Sarah whispers, "Looks just like you,... Is she your cousin?" It seems that Ting is missing a lot about her life in China, including her best friend there. Slowly, a friendship between Ting and Sarah evolves. This friendship does not displace the girls' feelings for their distant friends, but it does help fill some of the lonely void in their lives. Sarah's relationship with her father improves too, after a violent storm threatens the family. Father is away on business as usual, and can't make it home because of the storm. He tells Sarah once he makes it home: "All I could think of was how much I wanted to get home and see all of you." This doesn't make things right, but it offers some hope for their relationship in the future. The chapters alternate between Sarah's and Ting's stories. Life is somewhat bleak for both girls when the book begins. The feelings and dialogue of these characters ring true for readers. Children will empathize with the feelings of loneliness and isolation felt by the girls at various times. The plot ends on a hopeful note for both Sarah and Ting. This book offers insight on theexperiences of immigrant children beginning school in the United States, where friends, relatives, places, and their familiar language are all left behind. 2004, Front Street, Ages 8 to 13.
—Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-The honeysuckle house (a spot under a large honeysuckle bush) is where fourth-grader Sarah, a Chinese-American girl, plays with her friend Victoria until the girl suddenly moves away. Sarah's story is juxtaposed with her classmate Ting's, a new immigrant from China. Told in first person in alternating chapters, the narratives balance well between large issues (like Ting's parents' employment and legal problems and Victoria's abrupt departure) and more intimate ones (people assume that Sarah can speak Chinese, and Ting has to adjust to all of the new smells in America). With a smoothly drawn and interesting plot, strong characters, and graceful writing, the story has more immediacy than much realistic contemporary fiction. There are some truly memorable scenes, such as when Ting and Sarah explore Victoria's deserted house, and when Ting breaks a vase in the house where her mother cleans. With a strong social conscience behind it as well, this absorbing novel has a lot going for it.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This deft character-driven story about two ten-year-old girls rings with clarity. Sarah's devastated when her best friend Victoria suddenly and mysteriously moves away-where has she gone? Will she be back? The honeysuckle house in the backyard, where they played daily, is bereft without her. Slowly, Sarah gets to know Ting, a girl at school who's just arrived from Shanghai. In this Cincinnati where "China, Japan, Africa" are "all the same. . . . Faraway places with funny-looking people," teachers confuse Sarah and Ting, never absorbing that Sarah is Chinese-American and doesn't even speak Chinese. Kids tease and isolate Ting. Chapters vary Sarah and Ting's distinct points of view as the two creep toward a friendship that, rather than forgetting Victoria, honors and includes her even in her absence. This is really the story of all three girls, as well as their families, each with its own pains and strengths. Honesty and subtlety co-exist in Cheng's thoughtful, never-didactic writing. (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590786321
Publisher:
Highlights Press
Publication date:
08/01/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
136
Sales rank:
869,325
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)
Lexile:
600L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 14 Years

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