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Circle of Cranes Hardcover – April 12, 2012
From timeless classics to new favorites, find children's books for every age and stage. See more
"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." — Booklist
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.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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.
As Suyin discovers who she is and develops her embroidery abilities (a talent forbidden to her despite the cultural importance to her) she comes to realize that she was never alone and that while she was not officially adopted by any one person in her village, the entire village agreed to care for her. Suyin learns she has more family than she ever thought possible.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. The language is simple, yet compelling. I found I couldn't put it down and I'm certain mid-grade children (the target audience) will feel the same. The lessons Suyin learns in this story can apply to any child.