Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 4
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? The writing is beautiful, and the window this novel provides into a rural Chinese village during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s is invaluable. Sunflower is a young city girl who is largely left to herself while her father works nearby at a cadre school, performing physical labor and attending political meetings. She meets Bronze, a boy from the local village who becomes her champion and protector and, after a tragic turn of events, her brother. The story moves along at a leisurely pace, and young readers may need encouragement to stick with it but overall this is a wonderfully rich story of love and family. There are many examples of Sunflower’s new family working together and sacrificing in order to make ends meet. This should resonate with any child living in poverty or difficult circumstances. I agree with another reviewer who suggested it would make an excellent family read-aloud. It would also be a good classroom read-aloud. Both a historical note and an author’s note at the end of the book add some excellent background information about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the cadre schools, and also how the book came to be written.
Anything you didn’t like about it? At 384 pages, it is long for the intended middle-grade age range, and I fear children reading this without guidance might not persist. It is also extremely sad at times.
To whom would you recommend this book? Read Alikes? Recommend to strong readers, families looking for books to share together, and teachers looking for classroom read-alouds. I’ve seen this novel compared to the Little House books and the and there are some similarities, such as the emphasis on the value of family, hard work, and sacrifice.
Who should buy this book? Middle schools and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it? Middle-grade fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Not on the top, but definitely in the pile.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA
Date of review: April 10, 2017