Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Published by Clarion Books

Prairie Lotus: Park, Linda Sue: 9781328781505: Books

Summary:  Hanna and her widowed father are hoping to find a home in Dakota Territory; it’s 1880, and they have been having trouble finding a town that will accept half-Chinese Hanna.  They decide on the town of LaForge, where Hanna’s father knows the local constable, Mr. Harris.  Hanna’s late mother encouraged her to go to school, but when Hanna enrolls, many of the locals keep their children at home rather than have them study side-by-side with a Chinese girl. Pretty soon, the only students left are Mr. Harris’s two daughters.  Bess Harris and Hanna end up taking their graduation exams together and become friends. Hanna invites Bess to help her with the sewing at her father’s new dry goods store, and the two work together to help Hanna realize her dream of becoming a dressmaker.  Overcoming fear and prejudice, Hanna ultimately finds a way to become part of her new community. Includes an author’s note in which Linda Sue Park explains how she wrote this book to find a place for herself in her beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder books. 272 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Allow me to introduce my first definite Newbery contender for 2021.  Linda Sue Park does an amazing job of creating a highly readable story that pays homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books while at the same time highlighting the racism and prejudices of the time, not only with Hanna’s Chinese-American experience, but also in a subplot about the local Indians.  This would make a great unit paired with a Little House book and The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich.

Cons:  There are a lot of complex and important issues; this feels like a book that would be best read with some adult guidance.

If you would like to order this book from the Odyssey Bookshop, click here.


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