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Circle of Cranes Hardcover – April 12, 2012

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 720L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803734433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803734432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,996,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The book has strong curricular value, with concise and accessible explorations of labor politics, exploitative economies, and global immigration issues; in addition, the information about heritage crafts and feminine subcultures in China is fascinating. The thread of female solidarity and friendship is a significant appeal factor, giving the book a great deal of warmth."
(The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books)

"Inspired by the folktale 'The Crane Wife,' this novel engagingly melds an immigrant story with folklore and fantasy."

About the Author

Annette LeBox is an environmental activist who divides her time between Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, and a remote cabin in the Caribou grasslands.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Travel agent Lao from Fuzhou arrives in the remote mountain village of Cao Hai, China. He explains to the townsfolk that he escorts people to the Gold Mountain - America for a fee of fifty thousand dollars, which is an investment as the villager who goes with him will send home a fortune. To ease the fee, he offers a migrant loan, which the leaders accept. They choose thirteen years old Zhu Suyin to go over her objection.

Zhu, who is connected to the village cranes, and her fellow young female passengers cross the ocean on a terrible too crowded ship that appears ready to sink any moment. In New York City, the girls work fourteen hour-days in a horrific Chinatown sweatshop without wages. Suyin, who has the magic of the Crane Sisterhood, fears she is the last one and if she fails at her mission to save the Crane Queen the magical crane women will become extinct.

Targeting tweeners, this is an entertaining contemporary fantasy that focuses on the horrid working conditions of young illegal migrants from China. The fantasy elements are fun while insight into China's ethnic minorities enhances the tale although the diversity of these different groups is lost behind the dumbing down Chinese stereotype Miao. Based on real human trafficking news, Circle of Cranes is a profound tale that looks at an inconvenient aspect of illegal immigration ignored by those in power except when an incident occurs.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CarrieRogo on September 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Suyin is an extraordinary girl. She is an orphan living on the charity of others in her village but she has amazing luck. The villagers appreciate her talents and as a result pool their resources so she can become their benefactress in Gold Mountain (America). Suyin travels in a migrant ship, surviving horrific experiences and arrives in America to be seamstress in a New York sweatshop.

When I began reading Circle of Cranes I assumed this was taking place in the past. Early 20th century at least. The opening scenes in Suyin's home village do nothing to dissuade my initial impressions as the village is poor with no electricity. Few of the children can afford to go to school. The village is so desperate to increase their wealth they send Suyin away to America.

So imagine my surprise when one of the opening scenes in the section about Gold Mountain mentions a cell phone! This tale, so horrible and tragic, is taking place in present day. It's frightening to think that the treatment Suyin endures, the hunger and fear, the long hours for little pay, the violence towards these illegal immigrants still occurs.

Through all of this, Suyin stays strong. She learns that she is not an ordinary girl; instead she is a member of a secret society, the Crane Sisterhood. Her role within the sisterhood is also more than she expects: her mother was their Queen making Suyin a princess. She must figure out how to save her mother (who is trapped in the Grey World, an in-between world) and also how to save the entire sisterhood from becoming extinguished. This parallels Suyin's normal life as she needs to figure out a way to save her friends from being taken advantage of by the snakeheads and people smugglers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Orphaned almost as long as she could remember, thirteen-year old Suyin felt like she never really had a home in her rural Chinese village, especially since she had lived with several different aunties who seemed to pass her along from one household to the next. Hence Suyin found it hard to stifle a sense of bitterness when the villagers chose to give her up to Snakehead Lao, a human smuggler, so that she could work in New York City and send a lot of money back home.

Compounding the bitterness, Suyin quickly discovered the Lao had woven a clever web of lies. The promised cruise ship across the ocean proved to be a dilapidated, overcrowded, rat-infested barge. The rewarding factory job in Gold Mountain proved to entail exploitative work in an unregulated sweatshop for virtually no pay. Suyin would need to rely on her unique set of talents, which included an uncanny knack for languages and ties to the mystical Crane Sisterhood, to survive these dangerous conditions and find a way to help those she loved most.

This novel carefully weaves together elements from an old Japanese folk tale, "The Crane Wife," with a contemporary story based on the actual experiences of undocumented workers smuggled into North America to work in garment sweatshops. The narrative is loaded with economics lessons related to the low pay and poor working conditions of immigrant workers, as well as the status of girls in a minority Chinese sub-population. It should interest a wide readership seeking interesting characters, substantive content, and a touch of folklore.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Lynn Wagner on April 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
CIRCLE OF CRANES is based on an old Asian folktale you may have never heard of, The Crane Wife. While the most well-known version of the tale is Japanese, there are various renditions of the tale in other Asian cultures as well. Annette LeBox reveals the tale as she writes for anyone unfamiliar with the story and weaves lore of women who can turn into cranes into a sophisticated story full of truth as it reveals the grit and crime of the world's underbelly. I'll admit that for most of the time I was reading, I labored under the wrong impression that I was reading historical fantasy from the turn of the twentieth century as immigrants flocked to the melting pot of the US in unsavory conditions in order to prosper. Sweatshops and labor strikes flourished at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and that's what I thought I was reading. It wasn't until the end when one character has a cell phone that I thought, "Huh, that's odd." It turns out that LeBox has woven her novel around a smuggling incident that occurred in British Columbia, Canada in 1999/2000, where ships were intercepted and shown to be inhumane, the passengers in the worst of conditions. She also looks in-depth at the "intimidation methods used by human smugglers toward undocumented garment workers in the sweatshops of Chinatown, New York" (pg. 338). I had no clue that such places still existed today and that in some ways, life never evolved. The thought is horrifying.

Lebox's blog features more articles involving her detailed research into CIRCLE OF CRANES. She also talks about her trip to China, where she discovered the Miao Minority in Guizhou, which she calls "the poorest and least visited province in China.
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