School Library Journal
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Gr 5-9-Haoyou is a 12 year old in 13th century China, just conquered by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan. He goes to see his beloved father off on another shipping journey when wicked first mate Di Chou puts in motion a terrible plot. The superstitious Chinese always send aloft a person tied to a large kite to test the wind and the omens to ascertain whether the journey will be profitable. Haoyou's father, Pei, is sent on this mission, and fear makes his heart stop. Haoyou knows Di Chou intentionally arranged this in order to marry Pei's beautiful widow. Adding to the family's problems is the pompous and greedy Uncle Bo, who will do anything for some gold. Haoyou volunteers, somewhat to his horror, to be the kite rider for a ship on which he and his cousin Mipeng have stashed a drunken Di Chou the day before the wedding. The description of Haoyou's combination of complete fear and exhilaration is stirring. The mysterious Miao Je invites Haoyou to join his traveling circus as a kite rider where he becomes a star attraction, always seeking his father's spirit during these dangerous, gut-churning flights. Eventually they meet up with Kublai Khan and Maio Je's secrets are revealed. Details about superstition, codes of behavior and obedience, politics, racism, and daily life in China at this time are superbly conveyed in a beautifully written tale. The full cast recording of the novel by Geraldine McCaughrean (HarperCollins, 2002) is not quite convincing, although narrator Cynthia Bishop is excellent. None of Miao Je's charisma is audible nor is Uncle Bo's character portrayed in a seriously sinister way. However, the story is so wonderful that the recording will surely grip listeners.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.