From School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Who hasn't made a foolishly extravagant promise and lived to regret it? Set in the 1950s in San Francisco, this story begins at a family celebration. Eight-year-old Artie is the youngest of his generation, and his older brother and one of his cousins won't let him forget it. He's always selected last, picked on most, and generally gets the least recognition from his relatives. When Artie is goaded into bragging that he knows so much about fireworks that he'll have enough to give away, Petey tricks him into saying that he'll provide enough for the whole family for Chinese New Year. Artie's uncle, Chester, the youngest of his generation, empathizes, and offers to help Artie out. The narrative is largely about Artie's relationship with his uncle, who helps him keep his word, and Artie helps Chester get his priorities in order. It's a wonderful family story about expectations and responsibility but it's done with a light and tender touch and is steeped in both Chinese and San Franciscan culture. While the plot is engaging and relatable, the novel might be too challenging for the youngsters initially drawn to the cover, and middle school readers might dismiss it as too babyish. Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog (Little, Brown, 2006) is an easier read with similar subject matter and characters. Yep addresses the dicey idea of giving fireworks to children by providing an introduction explaining that this story is based on his own memories, and that firecrackers were legal in San Francisco then. This lively and involving historical novel will, with a little booktalking, find an appreciative audience.-Sarah Provence, Churchill Road Elementary School, McLean, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The 2005 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner for his body of work, Yep serves up a brand-new story based on his childhood in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The year is 1953, and Artie is the smallest and youngest child in his extended family. Tired of being teased, he blurts out that he will provide fireworks for everyone on Chinese New Year. But where will he get the money to make good on such an extravagant promise? His kindhearted uncle Chester promises to help buy them, but when hard times come, it appears that even Uncle won’t be able to help. Perhaps, as Uncle likes to say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But is there? Readers will find out in this charming and suspenseful story. In the meantime, they’ll discover any number of traditional Chinese customs that Yep skillfully weaves into his story and explains in an informative afterword, which is accompanied by a brief bibliography of sources. Grades 3-5. --Michael Cart