Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary:  When Maizy’s grandfather gets sick, she and her mother return to her mom’s childhood home in Last Chance, Minnesota.  Maizy’s not excited at the prospect of spending an entire summer with grandparents she barely knows, but Last Chance proves to be surprisingly interesting.  Her grandfather, Opa, tells her stories about Lucky, their ancestor from China who unexpectedly wound up in Last Chance and owned the Golden Palace restaurant that Maizy’s grandparents still run.  Lucky encountered hatred and racism in America, but also kindness, and Maizy has some similar experiences.  When the restaurant is targeted in a racist incident, Maizy is determined to find the culprit.  Her grandfather’s tales lead her to dig deeper into the story of the Paper Sons whose pictures hang on the walls of the Golden Palace, and she starts to connect with other Chinese American people around the country.  The whole community comes together when Maizy and her family need them the most, and she learns that there is more to many of her neighbors than meets the eye.  Includes a 10-page author’s note with lots of photos telling of her own Chinese American family’s story.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  There’s a lot packed into this fast-paced story, and Lisa Yee does an excellent job of tying up many different threads in a heartwarming final scene.  Opa’s stories about Lucky are well-integrated into the text, each one just a page or two long so that it doesn’t feel like an interruption to the main narrative. 

Cons:  The fact that I loved the short chapters (some just a page long) probably doesn’t speak well for my diminished attention span.

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