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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kid Konnection: The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman
Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN: 978-0545403108
Published January 2013
Hardcover, 336 pages

We didn't quite know what to expect when my daughter and I dug into this book. My daughter initially didn't think it would be all that special, but as we read it together, she found it more and more interesting. I liked it immediately, and how we laugh during the first scenes when we first meet fiery Jade Moon! She had the misfortune of being born in the Chinese Year of the Fire Horse, which is a bad thing because girls born in that year are considered dangerous, bringing tragedy to their families.

And so headstrong Jade Moon finds herself cursed and no one wants to marry her, except the dull brickmaker. She dreams of leaving her tiny village and discovering the world beyond. This becomes a reality when a young man, Sterling Promise, comes along with his smooth words and offers Jade Moon and her father the opportunity to go to America. The year is 1923 and Chinese immigrants are not welcome in America.

Once off the boat, all three are detained at Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay where immigrants are questioned before they are allowed entrance into America. They end up being detained for many months. When Jade Moon discovers she is to be sent back to China, she devises a plot that gets her into America and lands her in the dangerous streets of Chinatown, where she must use all her wits, and where her fiery stubborn streak actually helps her survive.

Jade Moon is quite the character, full of hot temper and stubbornness, yet also full of romantic dreams and strength. She strives to do what is right even at her own expense. She is a complex character, with the courage and intelligence to break away from a restricted life to gain freedom. Sterling Promise confused us at times. We didn't quite know what to make of him. He was good at keeping his emotions in check and we could see that he and Jade Moon were continuously clashing, which of course hid their attraction to one another.

My daughter and I loved how nothing seemed predictable in this story. There were twists and turns, and for my daughter, Jade Moon's experience was one she had never read of before. She and I really enjoyed this novel. The story dragged a little midway, and lost some of its humour, but then picked up toward the end with lots of action. I was impressed with the author's research that lent such an authentic feel of the Chinese culture and way of thinking in this novel, even if she is not Chinese. At the end of the book, the author includes notes on some of what she learned about the history of the Chinese-American immigration.

If you want to read an historical YA novel with a strong female heroine that is different from the norm, this one fits the bill. It has history, culture, danger, action and adventure. Honeyman has written a memorable debut novel, and we look forward to reading more of her work.

Note: This book is rated V = Violence. (mild) There are some brief street-gang fist-fighting scenes. Although the latter part of the book takes place in Chinatown in some seedy establishments, the author does a great job of keeping it clean.

Reviewed by Laura & Daughter

Disclosure: Thanks to Nikole Kritikos from Scholastic Canada for sending us this book for review. We were not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

Every Saturday, Booking Mama hosts a feature called Kid Konnection—a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, visit Booking Mama.

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