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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.

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Here is the sign up page and the May-June linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Lone Wolf, courtesy of Pansing books.

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Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

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These two picturebooks are quite different from each other. One is a folktale (The Stonecutter) while the other is a historical fiction about a young boy immigrating to America (Paper Son). However, the setting of both books (China) fit our reading theme quite nicely.

IMG_1058The Stonecutter

Written and Illustrated by: Demi
Published by: Crown Publishers, 1995
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story is one of the more famous Chinese folktales that subtly warns the reader to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. I have read a different version of the same tale illustrated with sparse black-and-white art by Jon J Muth and John Kuramoto.

The story begins with a simple stonecutter being asked by a rich man to work in his house. Upon seeing the rich man’s house, the stonecutter was filled with envy and wished that he was the rich man.

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Lucky (or not) for the stonecutter, an angel heard his wish and granted it. After awhile, he realized that there was something better than a rich man, and so he wished for power, for beauty and speed, for strength, and so on.

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This is a quiet philosophical tale that is bound to raise a good deal of discussion among thoughtful readers: especially as one considers the insatiable greed of man, the incessant feeling of discontent, and the always wishing to be someone other than one’s self. This timeless story acquired an even more luminous aspect with Demi’s golden art.

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This story also inspires the reader to consider what the nature of happiness is and the value of keeping still.

Paper Son: Lee’s Journey To AmericaIMG_1066

Written by: Helen Foster James & Virginia Shin-Mui Loh Illustrated by: Wilson Ong
Published bySleeping Bear Press: Tales of Young Americans Series, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This narrative is based on the thousands of stories of Chinese immigrants who journeyed from their hometown in China to find their paper families in America. The young twelve-year old Lee is an orphan in 1926 and was being raised by his hardworking and caring grandparents:

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Before Lee’s parents died, they secured his future by using all their savings and borrowing a huge amount of money to purchase a paper son slot in the United States. Lee did not want to leave the only family he has behind for a new country filled with strangers and a paper father, but his grandparents told him:

In Gum Saan, mountains are topped with gold and streets are paved with silver. Our mountains are topped with wars and our streets are paved with bandits. Gong Gong and I are old and sick. This is no place for you.

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In his desire to make his family proud, Lee made sure that he memorized the contents of his coaching book so that he will not get deported when he gets to Ellis Island, and that he commits to memory the little details that signify a make-believe home from the number of windows in the house to where the clock sits in the family room.

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The amount of sacrifice that the first-generation immigrants had to go through to provide a better future for their family is boundless: it requires a certain kind of character to willfully adopt another name and to allow one’s self to be subjected to various indignities in the name of citizenship and home.

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I was also particularly taken by Wilson Ong’s art and how the narrative just flowed quite easily, despite the fact that the text is longer than the usual picturebook. There is also a felt truth to the story that the reader can resonate with. I look forward to reading the rest of the Young Americans series.

Currently Reading…

It has been a crazy week for me last week but I finally finished reading Neil Gaiman’s The Kindly Ones. What a bittersweet experience. This is one of the best books in the entire series.

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This week, I plan to read the following books:

The Photographer into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre, Fréderic Lemercier; Tasting The Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat; and The Wave In The Mind by Ursula LeGuin.

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Paper Son’s Awards: Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2014; 2014 Story Telling World Resource Award – Pre-Adolescent Listeners, Commended, 2014; 2014 Bank Street Best Books of the Year for Children, Winner, 2014; 2014 San Diego Book Award – Best Published Children’s Book, Winner, 2014; Creative Child Award Preferred Choice Award, Winner, 2013

#AWBRead2015 Update: 47 (35)

9 comments on “[Monday Reading] Paper Son and Stonecutter: Dreaming in Folklore and Historical Fiction

  1. My students would want me to enter just to try to win Lone Wolf– they are HUGE Muchamore fans, but it can be hard to get the books in the US. Award winners and I often don’t get along, though, so I will pass. As always, great themed reading!

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    • Hi Ms. Yingling, the book prizes are sent by the distributors and there is no limit to participating countries. haha. i know what you mean about award winning books but that just gives you an even more unique perspective!

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  2. Paper Son looks really interesting! I’ll be on the lookout for that one, thanks!

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  3. Muth’s Stonecutter was beautiful indeed. And I really need to read a Demi book. Which would you recommend?

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    • That is a tough question, Earl, as she is very very prolific. One of my favourites though is Su Dongpo. Do look for that one. 🙂

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  4. The Photographer is on my summer reading list too. I’ve got it on the syllabus for a Graphic Novels course I’m teaching in the fall–but really should read it before fully committing to assigning it! (It’s a course focused on global issues and diversity.)

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  5. I’ve hear other stories like The Stonecutter, looks nice, but am going to especially find Paper Son, which sounds beautifully and heart-breaking, Myra. Thanks for sharing these! Have a good week!

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  6. I haven’t yet read a Muchamore book, but they are very popular with the boys in my library. Paper Son looks like a wonderful read. I haven’t read much Ursula Leguin since I was much younger (like in my 20’s) I’ve been meaning to go back and reread her, but I think that will have to wait til I retire.

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  7. Thanks for telling us about these titles – Have you read the nonfiction picture book Angel Island: Gateway To Gold Mountain. It looks like it would be great to pair with Paper Son.

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