Flash Review: The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor

By Maureen Tai, 10 April 2022

The Legend of Auntie Po (ages 11+) is a brilliantly imaginative, sweet and tenderly hopeful graphic novel about a 13-year-old cook and her coming-of-age in a Sierra Nevada logging camp. The year is 1885. Despite being born in America, Mei’s Chinese ancestry guarantees that she is doomed to be an outsider and to suffer the same hardships in life as her principled, hard-working and ancestor-worshipping father. At least, that’s what Mei herself believes until the day Auntie Po Pan Yin, the god of her made-up stories appears before her for real! Accompanied by Pei Pei, her trusty, adorable blue buffalo, Auntie Po is the infamous mother of all loggers, taller than the tallest trees in the forest, a gigantic god with her grey hair in a grandmotherly bun. As Mei grapples with fledgling romantic feelings for her best friend Bee, witnesses racist abuse meted out to her fellow countrymen, and endures a tragedy that befalls her logging crew, will Auntie Po and Pei Pei come to their rescue? This multi-layered and multi-faceted read marries myth with legend, historical fact with fiction, and acceptance with racism, showing that in the end, love always triumphs as do our gods whom we can’t always see. P.S. You don’t have to know about Paul Bunyan to appreciate this book. I didn’t, and still don’t.

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Flash Review: Arnica The Duck Princess by Ervin Làzàr & illustrated by Jacqueline Molnár

By Maureen Tai, 2 May 2021

Originally written in 1981, Arnica The Duck Princess (ages 8+) by Hungarian children’s author Ervin Làzàr, is a funny, quirky and fantastical fairy tale about a beautiful princess called Arnica, her carefree suitor called Poor Johnny and her temper-tantrum-throwing (yet wise) father called King Tirunt. There is a tyrannical villain of course, the Witch of a Hundred Faces, who puts a curse on Arnica and Poor Johnny. At any one time, one of them is transformed into a duck while the other remains human! On their quest to seek the help of the Seven-Headed Fairy, Arnica and Poor Johnny meet a rag tag assortment of quirky characters who are all made better off by the encounters. But will the lovers succeed in lifting the curse that threatens their love? And just who are the two narrators of this story who constantly interject with idle musings and random digressions? This charming, uplifting little book is perfect for bedtime reading and perfect for fans of fables and world stories.