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Ursula always wanted to see the circus. That is, until she caught smallpox. Now all she wants is to hide her scarred face. But Ah Sam, her parents' Chinese cook, has other ideas. He brings to town a magical circus and finds a way to give Ursula the confidence she needs to face the world. In return, Ursula finds a way to make Ah Sam happy. She creates the biggest, best Chinese New Year celebration that Whistle, Montana, has ever seen!
Based on actual events that occurred in the early twentieth century, two-time Newbery Honor author Laurence Yep's novel captures both the overwhelming pain of being different and the simple comfort in finding the community to which you belong.
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Laurence Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, was graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Mr. Yep now lives in Pacific Grove, California.
One of children's literature's most respected Asian American authors, Mr. Yep has written many novels, including Dragonwings, a Newbery Honor Book of 1976, and Dragon's Gate, a Newbery Honor Book of 1994. He is also the author of When the Circus Came to Town; The Imp That Ate My Homework, winner of the Georgia Children's Book Award; and The Magic Paintbrush.
The author of numerous other books for children and young adults, Mr. Yep has also taught creative writing and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Santa Barbara. In 1990 he received an NEA fellowship in fiction.From Publishers Weekly:
Yep leaves his oft-visited literary stomping grounds of San Francisco's Chinatown in this heartwarming historical tale based on real events. Ursula loves living in tiny Whistle, Mont., or what her Pa calls the Back of Beyond. She helps her parents run the stagecoach station, roams the wild hills and, after reading a penny dreadful that a stagecoach passenger leaves behind, invents a rollicking pirate adventure game with her friends. But everything changes after smallpox leaves her face deeply scarred. She retreats to her room: "Pirate Ursula was dead now. There was only Monster Ursula, and Monster Ursula did not go outside." When her parents hire a Chinese cook, he and Ursula find they share a sense of isolation, and gradually they become friends. Eventually, Ah Sam succeeds in coaxing Ursula out of her self-imposed exile when he invites his cousins to stage a circus. Ursula returns the favor: after a blizzard scuttles Ah Sam's plans to spend Chinese New Year in San Francisco, she rallies the whole town to plan an elaborate celebration of that holiday. Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance, this story is among Yep's most assured. With dry humor and a keen ear for dialogue, the author includes deft characterizations and offers a window onto Asian-American history and culture. Wang, who illustrated Yep's The Magic Paintbrush, contributes detailed b&w drawings that underscore the volume's more serious themes. Ages 8-10.
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