FAMILY: The ties that bind

Flying the Dragon

FLYING THE DRAGON
By Natalie Diaz Lorenzi (Watertown, Mass., Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012, 233 pp., $16.95, hardcover)

Eleven-year-old Sky lives in Virginia with her Japanese father and Caucasian mother, never giving much thought to her father’s estranged relatives in Japan.

Eleven-year-old Hiroshi lives in Japan with his parents and grandfather. Grandfather is moving to America for medical treatment. Sky and Hiroshi are cousins who have never met.

For Sky, the relatives’ arrival triggers her father’s decision to enroll her in summer Japanese language school so that she will be able to speak with her relatives. The lessons preclude her from playing on the All-Star soccer team, a decision she bitterly resents.

For Hiroshi, the move means he cannot participate in the annual village rokkaku kite-flying contest that his family has won ever since Grandfather entered as a boy. Hiroshi has been groomed for this year’s competition.

The heart of the novel involves the cousins, Sky and Hiroshi, learning to cooperate as Grandfather’s life slips away. Coaching each other in English and Japanese, and learning to build and fly kites become their joint ventures. Grandfather nudges Sky to take his own place as Hiroshi’s helper in the upcoming kite-flying contest in Washington, D.C., which he will not live to see. Grandfather shares stories about his late wife’s kite building and flying to help the two cousins appreciate the family tradition.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi weaves themes of family, preteen peer pressure, and Japanese culture into a gentle story appropriate for grades 4 through 8.

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