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The Breath of the Dragon Hardcover – March 17, 1997
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Gr. 4-7. Giles' poetic novel tells the story of Malila, a young Thai girl whose mother leaves her in the care of her grandmother after her father's sudden death. Later when she starts school, Malila learns that her father was a thief, and the village shuns her as unlucky. During her years at the village school, she repeatedly feels the "breath of the dragon" through the pain of rejection, loneliness, and self-doubt. As she grows to adolescence, Malila's world is dominated by her grandmother's ways and traditional Thai customs, and she finds solace in drawing pictures to accompany the stories her grandmother tells. Her artistic talent is eventually recognized and encouraged by a teacher, and as the story ends, Malila realizes the richness of her own gifts and heritage. The story is simply written, and the beauty of the Thai culture emerges on every page. A brief glossary helps with unfamiliar Thai words. Susan DeRonne
From Kirkus Reviews
A young village girl in Thailand is introduced to early sorrows when her father is branded a thief and shot by police. In shame, her mother flees to America, leaving the unknowing Malila in the care of her wise grandmother. Malila joins her grandmother in threading a garland of orchids and jasmine for the san phra phum, the spirit house. This marks the beginning of Grandmother's reverential guidance in the many traditions of their country. When her father is pronounced suay, or unlucky, Malila is an outcast, and finds her own way through her love of drawing and her grandmother's life lessons, from listening to the voice of the river to attending a kite contest. When her grandmother dies and Malila has to leave for America, she carries with her the inner strength to gain sanouk, the joy of living. Strong, sympathetic characters and the evocative Thai setting are an integral part of this well-told story with the universal theme of overcoming adversity; it's a quick read, but a rich one, and a humble obeisance to the uncertainties of growing up. (b&w illustrations, not seen, glossary) (Fiction. 8-11) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
I had my students write letters to Malila (the main character) and the depth of empathy revealed in this assignment pored its soul in their expression.