Thursday, 24 May 2012

Review: Raggedy Chan by Camille Picott


THE STORY:
Emma Chan-McDougal receives a special gift from her Auntie Gracie: a rag doll named Raggedy Chan. But Raggedy Chan is no ordinary doll. She is a beautiful Chinese princess who lives in a jasper palace on the enchanted isle of Kunlun. The peace of her island home is threatened when Drought Fury steals Winged Dragon, bringer of rain. Without Winged Dragon, Kunlun will wither and die. To save her stricken homeland, Raggedy Chan sets forth alone. Her quest leads her to America, where she meets people who distrust her because she’s different. Can Raggedy Chan adapt to the strange ways of this new land and rescue her beloved dragon? In this 10,000-word modern fairy tale, Chinese-American author Camille Picott draws on her heritage to weave a story of magic, adventure, and sacrifice.

MY THOUGHTS:

It's All In The Plot
Raggedy Chan is first and foremost an adventure. Though it's aimed at younger children, I couldn't help but admire how incredibly complex it was. It's got notable mythical animal characters to entice children and exciting plot twists for those of us who are on the other side of childhood (sniff).  Just when I thought things were going to be smooth sailing another obstacle would arise and Raggedy Chan would have to think of a clever way to resolve the dilemma. The Princess/Raggedy Chan shows all the desirable qualities of a strong heroine who would do anything to protect those she loves. 

Themes And Symbolism
I'm the first to admit that when I read it's purely for pleasure. Mostly because 1. I don't care if your book is a satire of the current political climate/trendy social justice topic. I can see that stuff on the news and I deal with it every day at work. 2. I'm not deep enough to delve into your heavily embedded symbolism so if you tell me your farm is run by pigs that's all I'm going to get out of it. With that being said, I couldn't help but notice that I actually got this book. Like, really got it. Camille has added just the right blend of storytelling, thematic influence and symbolism for the book to be both a compelling adventure story and a useful learning tool. This is a book that's not just for children my friends.

Everyone Is A Bit Racist
I think it's high time the whole world admitted to this fact. Heck, I'm half Chinese and I felt slightly racist reading this book. I kept thinking to myself, "why is Auntie Gracie talking like that?" and then I realised that both my parents speak exactly the same way and if I was having that kind of reaction imagine how other people would view it? Camille does such a great job of integrating her cultural influences into this book and I would argue that the skeleton of Raggedy Chan could be used to highlight the experiences of any immigrating culture. Kudos for the use of food as a way to teach about a culture. I think we can all agree that food brings everyone together.

Fish Out Of Water
What's truly genius about this book is that at one time or another in our lives we will all feel the way Raggedy Chan did after returning home from abroad. Whether it be from an adventure/travel/moving house/moving school. For a short time we feel tethered to both the past and the present, who we were and who we've become and life gets confusing and even scary. So much so that we consider not going forward to save ourselves the worry. Raggedy Chan does a marvelous job of reminding us that it's a scary world out there but we're missing out on great friendships and big adventure if we close ourselves off to it. We all want to belong and sometimes it's only by leaving the place we're most comfortable that we find where we truly fit in.


 THE RATING
5/5

22 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great read Lan! I may have to check this one out!

    Beth ^_^
    http://sweetbooksnstuff.blogspot.com/

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    1. You totally should. It's short so an easy read that's well worth it.

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  2. Oh my wow, 5 out of 5 and a convincing review... Totally wallet-shrinking, Lan! x) I recently read a book with a Chinese mother and had a blast with it too so I'm intrigued about that aspect here. And I loved this line in your review: "We all want to belong and sometimes it's only by leaving the place we're most comfortable that we find where we truly fit in." That's so true! It sounds like this book is not only a pleasure read, but one that has awesome lessons underneath as well -- and that's exactly what I love to hear! :)

    Absolutely amazing review, Lan! I probably never would've found this book on my own, but it sounds WONDERFUL and I'll be sure to pay it extra attention now! :) <3

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    1. I'm so glad you liked this review. It's a bit of a drought breaker and I feel like I can start working on a few other reviews I need to do. This book is so worth the time and money. I keep going back over it to remind myself that I shouldn't resist things so much. Even adults can learn!

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  3. Awwwww!!! I love this. It reminds me of my Raggedy Ann doll I had when I was a little girl. I never knew who raggedy ann was, but I liked the doll and that was all that mattered at the time. I think I still have her as a piggy bank...but that's off topic.

    I love your take on this story. It reminds me of how im feeling in life right now, stuck between who I was in college and who I am now living back home, and not really wanting to move forward. Fortunately, I decided I needed to, and I'll be getting my own apartment in a month.

    Last comment, I love your symbolism comment. I hate it when I read a book and it's supposed to be about post consumerism or something, but all I saw were dancing fruit or something. I dont think I'm deep enough or something, but regardless, I hate it.

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    1. I love when things remind us of toys and experiences we had as children. I still think there are ninja turtles living in the sewers. You're at a pivotal stage in your life Sherre. Mark it as an occasion. I often have to remind myself that change is good and to step out of my comfort zone.

      I am so bad at symbolism. I hate it usually. Maybe I can only get it when it's written for children!

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  4. Awesome review, Lan! I couldn't have said it better myself. I took away exactly the same message, which is a testament to how well Camille infused this story with her intended themes. I found Auntie Gracie to be so charming and cute with her accent. I didn't mind it because I thought it gave her character, and it was meant to distinguish her from natural born American citizens.

    I think what's cool is that you understood it being from Australia, even though it is all about immigrating to the U.S. (The Paul Bunyan thing is American folklore, if you were unaware.) I guess it speaks to immigrants of any country.

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    1. I loved Auntie Gracie. She was so sweet and exactly like an Asian grandma would be. And yet when I read it I still raised an eyebrow at her characterization until the light bulb finally went off in my head. I think in a way I feel like migrants have to hide their differences to a certain extent in order to fit in and I love that Camille doesn't compromise in her story.

      You know how I learned about Paul Bunyan?? The Simpsons!

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  5. Wow, this sounds awesome! I've been learning more about different Asian cultures recently and really enjoying the experience. This is definitely going on my to-read list. :)

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    1. This book is so worth it to immerse yourself in a little bit of Asia experience. It's got a lot of typical Asian folklore in it so it's easily recognized and yet has such originality as well.

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  6. Sounds like such a good story! It definitely sounds pretty deep for a children's story--which is great because superficiality is usually what steers me away from books targeted toward younger readers. Such a great review, Lan--I'm always so jealous of your talent!

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    1. Thanks Karen! I have been in such a review slump lately I worked extra hard to make this one read the way I wanted. I always shy away from children's books as well which is stupid because every time I read a book written for a younger crowd ie. Because of Winn-Dixie, I love them!

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  7. Lan, thank you so much for your review of Raggedy Chan! I really appreciate it.

    "Everyone is a bit racist."

    This is so true. I entered Raggedy Chan into a contest a few years ago, and I got reamed by a judge for Auntie Gracie's character. This particular judge viewed her character as a negative racial stereotype. I was taken aback by this analysis, since I literally heard my Chinese grandmother's voice in my head as I wrote the book and part of what I wanted to do was share her voice with the world. For a while I considered changing Auntie's dialogue to regular American English for fear of alienating more readers, but in the end I went with my heart.

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    1. I'm so glad you didn't change anything about Auntie Gracie. In my personal opinion (which I tend to share out freely so it's not so personal!) we've all become so overly politically correct. How can something be a negative stereotype when that's the way it actually was and it's something we relate to and love? There's no give anymore and that makes for bland storytelling. I maintain you can't win either way. Accents are too stereotypical but no accents are too generic and non engaging. Readers who would appreciate your books will love it for what it is. A great story.

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  8. Lovely review, Lan! I don't read many MG titles lately but this one sounds perfect. I love it when books for younger readers like this can teach us many things. Definitely need to check it out on Goodreads <3

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    1. I don't tend to read much MG either but I really should because they're sometimes just like YA without all the things that annoy me!

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  9. Yay! You understood AND loved the symbolism! ;)

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  10. Haha! Yes, I seriously think I need to start reading middle grade books where things actually make sense to me.

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  11. Great review! Like you, I'm not much into symbolism so pigs running a farm? Means pigs run the farm. No deep meaning lurking below the surface for me! :)

    And agree with you about Aunt Gracie....there's too much political correctness around these days and it's a shame. I love accents, but so many seem to be dying out thanks to TV and movies. Thanks for sharing this one, as I would never have heard of it otherwise!

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    1. Don't you just hate symbolism sometimes? I just want to read a book which is about what it says and not what I have to interpret it to be!

      I adore accents. But you're right, they're dying out and I don't like it.

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  12. Without this reviews, I wouldn't give this book a second look. Sometimes I wonder: how many great books do I leave unread? Thanks for showing this one to me, I will take a closer look at it :)

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    1. I always think the same as well. Then I look at my overflowing TBR pile :)

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