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Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear by…
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Yang the Youngest and his Terrible Ear

by Lensey Namioka

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Yingtao Yang has a very very talented family. He has two sisters and one brother. Both his mother and his father played in an orchestra back in China where they lived before moving to Seatlle Washington. YEven after years of violin lessons from his father, Yingtao cannot make beautiful music Yingtao wants to learn English and make new friends at school. Still, he must make time to practice his violin for an important family recital to help his father get more students. Yingtao is afraid his screeching violin will ruin the recital. But he's even more afraid to tell his family that he has found something he likes better than music. Yingtao's friendship with curly haired Matthew eventually saves the day. Where Yingtao only wishes to play baseball and is instead forced to practice the violin, Matthew is forced to remain on the baseball team while in his heart he years to play a fiddle of his own. By putting their heads together, the two boys come up with a plan that will free them both from their family's expectations. Yang is different from his family and he doesn't want to let his father down. He's afraid to tell his family that he has found something he likes more than music.
  Future_educator | Nov 21, 2013 |
Namioka, Lensey. Yang the youngest and his terrible ear. (1994). New York: Yearling.

Fourth Brother, Yingtao Yang, is the fourth of four children of two musicians who have just moved to Seattle from China. Mother is a pianist and can’t find work, and Father plays violin. He has a job as an alternate with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. This doesn’t bring in enough money, so Father also gives private violin lessons. All of the children play in the family quartet. First Brother plays violin; Second Sister plays the viola; Third Sister plays the cello; and Yingtao plays the second violin – badly. He’s tone deaf. Even though it is his terrible ear that keeps him from playing well, First Brother always urges him to try harder and Second Sister thinks he just needs to practice more. Father thinks he’d play better if he had a better attitude. Only Third Sister, who has given herself the American name Mary, understands he is trying his hardest. She says he was just born different. Yingtao is very nervous about the recital Father is putting on. If the parents of the children Father teaches enjoy the recital, they might tell their friends who will send their children to Father for lessons. But Yingtao and his brother and sisters are the featured players, and Yingtao knows that his terrible playing will reflect badly on his Father’s teaching. Yingtao has become best friends with Matthew who loves to play violin and he is good at it. What he’s not good at is baseball, which disappoints his father. He teaches Yingtao, who turns out to be a talented ball-player. The boys scheme to have Matthew play at the recital behind a screen while Yingtao pretends to play in front of the screen. At the recital the audience of parents is impressed. However, it is revealed that Matthew was really the one playing so well. The parents are still impressed, and Father gets new students after all. Matthew’s father realizes he should encourage Matthew’s musical talent instead of discouraging it. He takes Father and the family to watch one of Yingtao’s baseball games, where he makes some great plays. Finally, Yingtao experiences his family being proud of him.

This is an excellent realistic fiction book about family. It realistically portrays the problem many children have with not being like the rest of their family and not meeting their parents’ expectations. Both Yingtao and Matthew are not talented in the same way their fathers are talented, and neither father can understand why their sons aren’t more successful at violin playing and baseball respectively. Young elementary students will be able to relate to this. Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear effectively shows the bitter, empty feeling anyone would feel seeing their family happily proud of another child doing something with them that they can’t do. The characters are credible. The boys, Yingtao and Matthew, misunderstand each other just as a Chinese boy and American boy wouldn’t always understand each other’s culture. Father, First Brother, and Second Sister realistically mistakenly attribute Yingtao’s poor playing to his not trying hard enough or having a bad attitude. The main character and most of the other important characters are Chinese, and rather than stereotyping them, it sheds light on Chinese values and customs.

The illustrations are ink drawings that aren't very detailed. They don’t add to the text, but simply reflect it. ( )
  TeacherLibrarian | Aug 7, 2010 |
Namioka, L., & Kiefte, K. (1992). Yang the youngest and his terrible ear. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
This is a wonderful story about fitting in, not only in a culture, but also in a family. The story, which is based on the author's true life experience as a child, is written in a way that can enlighten a person's understanding of the cultural differences and difficulties that immigrants might face. The character Yingtao, not only has to learn English, he has to try to fit into his school environment, try to make friends, and at the same time try not to disappoint his family. The universal challenge in this story for Yingtao, and all children is the development of their individuality. It is this concept that can show other children who read this story that they are not alone. The book also touches on Chinese culture and customs and how the family tries to incorporate those customs into their new life in the United States. ( )
  edtech5 | Aug 6, 2010 |
Yingtao and his family have just moved to the US from China. It's hard to adjust to a new culture and language, but Yingtao's biggest problem is one he's had all his life: his family is very musical and he's tone-deaf. No matter how much he practices the violin, he never gets any better.

This is aimed at a pretty young audience (Yingtao is 9/10, so I'd guess it's aimed at kids a bit younger than that), so the language is really simple, but the story is cute. This is the first in a series about the Yang family and I'll definitely be checking the rest out. ( )
  kyuuketsukirui | Sep 7, 2009 |
Lexile: 720
Reading Recovery: 24
DRA: 38
Fountas Pinnel Guided Reading: Q
  mr.crunkleton | Aug 24, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440409179, Paperback)

Everyone in the Yang family is a talented musician except for nine-year-old Yingtao, the youngest Yang. Even after years of violin lessons from his father, Yingtao cannot make beautiful music.

Now that his family has moved from China to Seattle, Yingtao wants to learn English and make new friends at school. Still, he must make time to practice his violin for an important family recital to help his father get more students. Yingtao is afraid his screeching violin will ruin the recital. But he's even more afraid to tell his family that he has found something he likes better than music.

Together he and his new friend Matthew think of a sure way to save the recital. They are certain nothing will go wrong.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Recently arrived in Seattle from China, musically untalented Yingtao is faced with giving a violin performance to attract new students for his father when he would rather be working on friendships and playing baseball.

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