Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

Prairie Lotus

Linda Sue Park, Author

Clarion Books,  Fiction, Mar. 3, 2020

Suitable for ages: 10-12

Themes: Fathers and daughters, Chinese Americans, Racially mixed people, Bullying, Frontier and pioneer life, Dakota Territory, Dressmaking

Synopsis:

When Hanna arrives in the town of LaForge (Dakota Territory) in 1880, she sees possibilities. Her father could open a shop on the main street. She could go to school, if there is a school, and even realize her dream of becoming a dresmaker — provided she can convince Papa, that is. She and Papa could make a home here.

But Hanna is half-Chinese, and she knows from experience that most white people don’t want neighbors who aren’t white themselves. The people of LaForge have never seen an Asian person before; most are unwelcoming and unfriendly — they don’t even know her! Hanna is determined to stay in LaForge and persuade them to see beyond her surface.

In a setting that will be recognized by fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, this compelling story of resolution and persistence, told with humor, insight, and charm, offers a fresh look at a long-established view of history.

What I like about this book:

Linda Sue Park has penned an insightful and  beautifully poignant novel about a Chinese American girl, traveling from California to the Midwest with her widowed white father. The author has placed Hanna in the middle of America’s heartland, where most white people have never seen Asian Americans, but hold an unwavering prejudice against anyone of color, including Native Americans.

I enjoyed Hanna meeting some women and children from the Ihanktonwan tribe and sharing a meal with them before she and her father arrive in LaForge. They grace her with a string of prairie turnips. This scene sets the stage for how people of color were displaced and treated in 1880. Hanna meets them again later in the story when she’s looking for prairie rose bushes and they are digging turnips. (Park includes some of the Native dialogue, during the encounters.) Hanna wonders why it isn’t possible for whites and Ihanktonwan tribe to share the land together, a reflection of her own situation.

Hanna is a memorable, likable, determined and courageous character with a strong voice. She has big dreams of going to school and graduating and becoming a dressmaker, like her mother. She hopes to make one best friend. Hanna has experienced prejudice her entire life,  But It’s still hard for Hanna to deal with the stares, cruel comments, racist attitudes, parents pulling their kids out of school in protest and outward physical abuse. But her Chinese mother’s words are always there to remind her of who she really is.

Park says she intended to write a version of her favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books that speaks the truth for Asians, Native Americans and people of color, who were involved in the settling of America, but were treated second class. Her research is impeccable and furthers the understanding of our country’s long history of prejudice. She visited the town of DeSmit, and some reservations.

Make sure you check out the lengthy “Author’s Note” at the end of the book, which deals with her love and struggle with the Little House books. This is a perfect class discussion book.

Linda Sue Park is the author of Newbery Medal winner A Single Shard and best-selling novel A Long Walk to Water, along with numerous novels and picture books. Ms. Park has been a gymnast, a food journalist, an advertising copywriter, and an ESL teacher, and now writes full time. As an advisory board member of We Need Diverse Books and a board member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, she is a well-known advocate for diversity, inclusiveness, and reading. She lives in Rochester, New York, with her family. Visit her website or on Twitter @LindaSuePark

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library book.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

23 thoughts on “Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

  1. Ooh, this sounds really good. It’s especially interesting to me because my daughter was adopted from China. I hope I can get this one from my library.

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  2. I love Linda Sue Park´s books and this one sounds as good as the rest. This is part of our North American history, in Canada and the US. The main character sounds very special. Kids will love this book.

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    • Yes, I know how that is to have a book on your TBR list. I loved Park’s story because it presents a perspective I haven’t read about in children’s literature during the settling of our country.

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  3. Hanna sure is an endearing character and one kids would like. Historical fiction like this story can make parallels to our present day. I’ve read some of Park’s other works but haven’t read this one yet. I’ll be adding it to my future read list. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

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    • Hannah is an endearing character. I love how Park wrote her own version of the Little House series in that same area and brought to light how people of color, including Native Americans, were treated. And there are parallels to our present day.

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  4. I love the subject matter of this one. We can’t have enough books that teach tolerance and the acceptance of others.

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  5. This book sounds truly amazing! It’s wonderful that Park created a book that brings the joy of books like the Little House series to every person instead of a randomly selected few. Thank you for the wonderful review!

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  6. Linda Sue Park is an amazing writer. A Single Shard is one of my all-time favorite MG reads. It sounds like she brings her skills to this book as well. Your review reminded me of Birchback House, which was like Little House, but from a Native American perspective.

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    • Yes, Park is a favorite author. But, thank you for mentioning the Birchback House, as that sounds intriguing. There are so many wonderful books in Canada about their indigenous population — not so much here.

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  7. I love the premise of an Asian protagonist in the Plains, very different yet the message is so timely. Thanks for the post.

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