Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Reclaiming mythology & California history: The Legend of Auntie Po, by Shing Yin Khor (ages 9-14)

Attention comic book lovers: come explore a 19th century California logging camp and listen to a young Chinese girl spin stories and tall tales envisioning a better future. The Legend of Auntie Po, by Shing Yin Khor, explores the struggles of the Chinese in California in the years following the Chinese Exclusion Act, balancing important historical details with a compelling, heartfelt, magical story.

The Legend of Auntie Po
by Shing Yin Khor
Kokila / Penguin, 2021
Amazon / your local library / Overdrive
ages 9-14

Mei helps her father cook and feed dozens of hungry men in a Sierra Nevada logging camp, in 19th century California. She dreams of a better life and chafes at her limited opportunities, knowing that her white friend can go to university and get married. Mei loves reading and telling stories--at night, she enchants anyone who will listen with her stories of Auntie Po, a Chinese woman who "stood taller than the tallest white pine" and ran a logging camp with her "loyal blue buffalo Pei Pei." Adult readers may recognize much of Paul Bunyan, I'm not really sure that young readers will know those stories.

Even though the logging boss declares his loyalty to Mei's father, he cannot protect him against anti-Chinese discrimination. When the logging company caves to pressure, the White camp boss dismisses all of the Chinese workers, including Mei's father. The story weaves together the real-world struggles Mei and her father face with the tall tales of Auntie Po's heroic adventures.

I especially appreciate the way Khor draws readers into the story with this graphic novel, creating a visual sense of the logging camp, yet really focusing on the character's feelings and struggles. Young readers often find it hard to feel a part of history, and this story will bring them into an important perspective that is often left out of the history books. Take a look at this preview from Google Books and see for yourself:

The review copies came from my public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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