Monday, April 25, 2022

Spring Reading 2022 Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend


Imagine trying to whip up some goodies for a class bake sale and accidentally summoning the spirit of your dead grandmother. Sounds a bit unusual, right? But that is just the beginning for Winnie as she learns that she is destined to be the latest shaman in her family and her grandmother (Lao Lao) expects her to train on top of her already hectic schedule of homework, Chinese school on the weekends, piano lessons, and surviving parents with high expectations and middle school in general. As if there were not enough challenges in Winnie's life, her older sister has become a complete pain and now David Zuo, her nemesis from Chinese school and piano competitions has transferred to Winnie's school. Life can be so unfair!

The story of Winnie and her battle to save her town from unfriendly spirits is mixed in with her struggles to survive middle school. "Is there a scarier place on the planet?" Winnie asks readers in the first paragraph of her story. Besides all her school and extracurricular activities, Winnie also has to cope with a group of mean girls who enjoy teasing her when she brings Chinese food for lunch and the way her parents constantly compare her accomplishments to those of David. The frustrations of sixth grade (school, family, competition) are described with humor and enough detail to make them easy for readers to picture clearly and still sympathize. Familiar tropes such as enemies to allies and confrontations with mean girls make the story more believable, even as Winnie is also facing off with evil spirits.

Great for middle grade readers who enjoy the Rick Riordan Presents type stories that include mythology and folklore from cultures around the world, as well as for those who like to see a female protagonist as the hero rather than a damsel to be rescued. I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review pruposes. Publication date is set for April 26.

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