Truth: Justina Chen Headley's book Nothing But The Truth (and a few white lies) gives a remarkable insight to our differences, our insecurities and sense of belonging. Patty Ho is a self-deprecating fifteen year old who unwittingly learns self-acceptance, confidence and self-empowerment through people she would never have given half a chance to before. This is a funny, heartbreaking story that mixes culture, teenage confusion, and an unlikely support system into a wonderful celebration of our differences.
Truth: Nothing But The Truth (and a few white lies) was a tough book for me to read. Emotionally that is. There were so many things that were so spot on to my teenage years, sometimes painful yet humorous. From Mama's Lectures...comparison shopping of children's accomplishments...brand name college wars...feeling uncomfortable in my own skin...being "yellow struck"...people making assumptions about me because I'm Asian...I could go on and on. Just like I wish I had Grace Lin's book The Year of the Dog while I was in grade school, I wish I had Justina Chen Headley's book Nothing But The Truth (and a few white lies) when I was a teenager. I bet I'd have been able to deal with my identity crisis a whole lot better in my teenage years. It's amazing how over (ahem...) twenty something years have passed, and the same uncomfortable feelings of self doubt and insecurity crashed over me while reading this book. And made me ever so grateful for the support of my high school friends and best girlfriend from my Ivy League university--yes, my parents won on this one.
Truth: This book is wonderful. Go out and find a copy to read.
And now...A Sunday's List of Strong Girl Role Models In Children's Literature.
1. 15 year old Patty Ho, camp friends Anne and Jasmine, Auntie Lu, and Patty's mother from Nothing But The Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley, ages 15 and up: Patty is a sweet self-deprecating teenager who is half Taiwanese and half white and doesn't feel she belongs to either culture. She undergoes a wonderful Aha! moment after talking to her Math Camp TA and realizes she has been shortchanging herself. She goes through a wonderful journey of self empowerment and discovery and realizes she has the best of both worlds.
Auntie Lu is loving and supportive and helps Patty find the truth about her mother. Oh the heartbreaking story of Patty's mother...this totally killed me. I found out how strong Patty's mother was for her daughter and son, and totally cheered her on. When I analyzed this a bit more and thought of all the stories out there of what parents, and especially immigrant parents, have had to overcome to raise their children in the United States, I am humbled and grateful. It makes me understand the Mama Lectures and different ways of thinking even more.
Patty's friends Jasmine and Anne support and empower her at Math Camp. Anne stands up for Patty and proves geeks can be cool. Jasmine is "so comfortable in her skin that she could color outside of race lines, even scribble across a bright white girl." She tells Patty, "Being smart is sexy. And any guy who doesn't think so is too stupid to waste a single brain cell on..." Truly powerful words!
2. 12th Wise Woman and The Princess from Sleeping Bobby by husband and wife team Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne (author of the Magic Tree House series), ages 4-8: A fun twist to this retelling of the much loved classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. The King and Queen have a royal feast to celebrate Prince Bob's birth and especially invite the kingdom's 12 Wise Women, neglecting the 13th because there wasn't enough china. Tsk, tsk. The 13th Wise Woman shows up, all miffed and ready to spread her discontent to little Prince Bob. The 12th Wise Woman used her power and quick thinking to deflect the evil wish into something dramatic befitting a Prince. A "kind, clever, modest,, and very lovely princess" who was also quite adventurous and curious like Prince Bob saves the day by taking it upon herself to kiss Prince Bob because he was so handsome. A tale worthy for any young adventurous gal.
3. The Queen and the Frog Princess from The Frog Princess by Laura Cecil, ages 4 - 8: Retellings of classic fairy tales seem to be a theme here. This delightful picture book is a fun retelling of The Frog Prince. The wise Queen has three sons and tells them they must find a bride. She sets three tests for each bride to complete. The bride that wins the tests will win the kingdom for the son. Third son, Prince Marco puts his trust and faith in the little frog. The little frog has utmost confidence and unequivocally wins each test. Lo and behold, when the little frog finally knows Prince Marco will marry her, she unveils her true identity...Princess under an evil spell. Charming watercolor illustrations add to this whimsical, clever tale.
4. Oonagh from Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife: A Giant of a Tale from Ireland by Robert Byrd, ages 4 - 10: The Salmon of Knowledge foretells Celtic Giant Finn MacCoul's future, "A woman's wit and courage will win you the day!" Enter Finn MacCoul's clever fearless wife, Oonagh who makes Finn tell her his troubles. Bully Cucullin is on his way. Oonagh plays her Sacred Faery Harp for some magic advice, then uses her industry and wit to stand up to the bully. This is an enjoyable picture book with exuberant colorful illustrations that show quite a bit of action. Celtic tales really know how to celebrate the woman!