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The Star Maker Hardcover – December 21, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060253150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060253158
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Madigan McGillicuddy on February 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This middle-grade novella takes us back to San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1950's. Eight-year old Artie is the youngest amongst all of his cousins, and unfortunately, prone to frequent bullying by his elder cousins, especially thorn-in-his-side Petey. Goaded into bragging about his prowess with fireworks, Artie tells his extended family that he'll gift them all with fireworks for the Chinese New Year. Seeing that he's taken on an impossible task, Artie's doting, yet ne'er-do-well Uncle Chester decides to step-in and help out. But, will even his help be enough to close the gap and get Artie the firecrackers he's saving up for?

It's a uniquely Chinese-American story, and Yep handles the balancing act between cultures perfectly. There's even a subplot about a possible girlfriend for Uncle Chester. The characters experience several improbably lucky turns, as well as a few setbacks, but everything wraps up very neatly. While some of the racism of those times is implied, it is not overtly part of the story. The slight 112 pages are padded by a lengthy apologist introduction by Yep, explaining that while fireworks are a central part of the story and they were legal in the 1950's, but they certainly aren't (in most states, anyway) considered safe for children to handle nowadays. The story is appended with an explanation of some Chinese customs, including information about the Chinese zodiac. Readers who enjoy The Star Maker will probably also like Being Teddy Roosevelt by Claudia Mills, featuring another plucky, can-do protagonist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on February 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
It is rare that a book for children is able to explore fully, without being pedantic or rote, the various elements of a particularly rich ethnic culture. Laurence Yep, a Newbery Honor winner with over 60 books under his writing belt, explodes the wonders of Chinese New Year on us in his new work, THE STAR MAKER, the story of a young boy in a large family who makes a promise to his multitudinous cousins and, in doing so, charts an adventure into what makes his people tick.

Basing the novel around Chinese New Year, Yep is able to hone his anthropological skills in a focused and clear-cut fashion. The specific customs and celebrations that take place at this time each year are highlighted throughout the book, giving it a rich and varied backdrop. Of course, the story of Artie's attempts to score fireworks for all the cousins for a big celebration is the real crux of the plot. How this young boy realizes that he has made a promise too big to keep, yet keeps it by learning some hard truths about grown-ups and his family, is something that middle-schoolers will relate to without difficulty.

A small boy for his age, Artie is always being bossed around by the bigger cousins, and THE STAR MAKER puts his difficulties into the context of so many interesting subjects --- growing up in general; growing up in a large, close, extended family; and growing up in that large family where ancient customs are still considered important traditions and enacted by all family members, even though the family lives in contemporary San Francisco. Yep is very adept at making the most mundane musings of Artie part of a first-class monologue that continues throughout the book, told in Artie's honest voice.
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