By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
Written and illustrated by Liz Wong
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016
Meet Quackers. Quackers is a duck. He may have paws and whiskers instead of a bill and feathers. And he may not enjoy typical duck activities such as going in the water and eating duckweed. But Quackers is a duck. This he knows. He lives in a duck pond with all the other ducks.
But then he meets Mittens — another duck who looks just like him. But Mittens calls himself a cat and then takes Quackers to meet other cats, who also look like him.
Quackers loves spending time with his new cat friends, but after a while, realizes he also misses his duck friends. And so, he finds a way to combine the best of both worlds.
“Quackers” is a fun and adorable story about finding yourself and embracing and loving that person. Quackers may be different from the other ducks but that doesn’t matter to him or to his friends. All they care about is spending time with each other and having fun.
This is a story about acceptance, both on Quackers’ part for accepting himself, as well as his duck and cat friends’ part for accepting him. In a world that focuses so much on our differences and how they could tear us apart, Wong shows readers — young and old — how easy it is to overlook those differences — an important lesson for everyone to learn and remember.
“Quackers” features fun and colorful illustrations — also by Wong. These illustrations show how different Quackers is from his duck friends. Among a pond full of white ducks, Quackers’ bright orange fur stands out. But Wong also shows how little those differences matter as she depicts the whole group having fun together — something we all can take note of.
By Dean Norton
Amazon Digital Services, 2015
Nam hates her life. She and her family live in Thailand, where she can’t understand the language and can’t stand the heat. She’s also been recently dumped by her boyfriend back in England.
Then a tsunami hits, leaving the area devastated, Nam’s parents’ hotel ripped apart and Nam and her mother dead.
It is then — while in limbo between her current life and what would be her next life — that Nam discovers the truth about hers and her mother’s bloodline. They are descendants of the Mara, the Buddhist devil, and he wants Nam for his blood collection. And while it may not be great to learn you’re a descendent from the devil, it does come with the power to blast away demons.
Nam’s mother sacrifices herself, becoming Mara’s slave, in return for Nam and her twin brother Junior’s safety.
This sends Nam back to the land of the living in Thailand where she learns the true extent of the damage caused by the tsunami, as well as the ramifications of her mother’s actions. Now that she’s back, Nam and Junior — along with a mysterious boy named Simon — hone their newfound powers to find a way back to the Underworld to save their mother.
“Lotus Blood” is a story about family and learning about who you are.
Initially, Nam doesn’t connect much with her Thai half and comes off as a bit of a brat for the temper tantrums she throws (we later learn there’s a reason for them). But as the story moves forward, Nam begins to appreciate her mother’s half of the family more and even begin to take pride in it.
While the story is told from Nam’s perspective, readers are also able to see Junior and Simon grow as the three work together to try and defeat the Mara.
China Rich Girlfriend
By Kevin Kwan
Knopf Doubleday, 2015
Rachel Chu and Nick Young’s wedding is quickly approaching and while it should be the happiest day of their lives, especially considering everything the couple has gone through (see “Crazy Rich Asians”), Rachel can’t help but feel a bit disappointed in the fact that her birth father won’t be there to witness it.
A chance car accident changes all this and reveals his identity, and throws Rachel and Nick into the world of Shanghai splendor to a point they hadn’t really experienced.
Because while Nick’s family may have been crazy rich, they soon learn that this side of Rachel’s family goes beyond that. They’re China rich.
In this sequel to Kwan’s 2013 debut, we meet Chinese mainlanders who take wealth to the next level. We’re talking the type of wealth that looks down on others who have only $1 billion to $2 billion.
“China” has all the extravagance as its predecessor — think street racing in multimillion dollar exotic cars and penthouse churches — but it also has a bit more heart and humanity. There is not as much of the cattiness (and sometimes pure meanness) we saw in “Crazy” and there is a theme of redemption as we see some of the characters, such as Nick’s mother Eleanor, work to redeem themselves after their actions in the first book. Eleanor does everything she can to get back into her son’s good graces after her attempts to sabotage his and Rachel’s relationship.
We also see that money can’t buy everything, as is the case of Nick’s cousin, Astrid, as she works to keep her marriage going amidst her husband’s success in the tech world.
“China” shows readers that using money to make problems go away just causes them to come back with a vengeance.
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.