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Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep

Child of the Owl (1977)

by Laurence Yep

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The child of the owl was an interesting tale about a young girl, named Casey, who discovers her cultural identity while living with her grandmother in Chinatown. Her father, named Barney, has a major gambling issue which forces him to allow Casey to stay with her relatives. Barney's gambling problem is so bad that he winds up in the hospital by a lender who did not receive any payment from Barney. As a reader, you kind of feel pity for both Barney and Casey because both characters are affected by Barney's gambling illness. The grandma, named Paw Paw, even states that Barney can not help himself. He is controlled by his desire to attain greater wealth through gambling. He promises his daughter to give her a penthouse suite and other luxuries once he hits it big but that result never comes to past. Throughout the story, Casey is very patient with her father. She has faith in him that he will kick his habit of gambling. She tries to write him back after receiving his letters, but Barney does not stay in one location for very long. As a result, her letters are forwarded to her address. Later, she decides not to write back to her father. Once she moves in (seemingly temporarily) with her Paw Paw, she develops a wonderful relationship with her grandma. Paw Paw was not like Casey's other relatives. She was nice and understanding towards Casey's situation. Casey has a difficult time relating to other Chinese because of her limited exposure to Chinese culture. Paw Paw informs Casey about her deceased mother, her family's heirloom, and her native name's meaning.
At the end of the story, Casey matures into a young woman that is very similar to her Paw Paw; you can tell that she greatly admires her grandmother.
I feel that readers can relate to this story because we all know of someone who has battled with some form of illness that seemed to not only control their life but has affected their loved ones in some way. ( )
  hlmusiclover | Oct 7, 2014 |
Casey has to move in with her grandmother in Chinatown while her father is on the lam from his gambling debts.
This is a very honest look at what it means to be of Chinese heritage in American society. It's often difficult to reconcile how to be both American and Chinese. This book looks at Casey, who is far from the usual "model minority" sidekick. She's the cild of a gambler, used to moving around and relying on her wits more than conventional means to get by.
At first I thought I would like a time marker at the beginning of the story, but on reflection I enjoyed discovering that it is set in the 60s. It's a nice portrait of a Chinatown gone-by, but it still feels relevant.
I would recommend this for any elementary school library, and more so if there is a population of children who are 1st or 2nd generation Americans. ( )
  emithomp | Oct 4, 2009 |
This unusual coming of age story is set in San Francisco in 1965 and follows Casey as she moves from living with her wandering and gambling father to her grandmother's apartment in Chinatown. One of the facets of this story that takes it beyond the normal tale of discovering one's own ethnic identity is how Casey doesn't see herself as Chinese until she first enters Chinatown and realizes that she has the same skin and eyes as those around her. At the heart of this book is a fairy tale about Owls which masterfully captures the strange place that immigrants and their families occupy as they try to hold onto their own culture but also absorb a new. An interesting feature of Casey's story is the way she refers to both of her parents, even her dead mother, by their first names. This connects to how she is learning about having roots and a stable family life, along with learning about her culture.

This book is classified young adult and it leans towards the younger end of this spectrum in terms of the vocabulary used though the themes are older. Casey's father is an itinerant gambler and the violence that accompanies that life is presented honestly along with the poverty of the era. This is a book that could be the beginning of many discussions about different sorts of family life, ethnic identity and also personal identity. ( )
  katekf | Sep 26, 2009 |
Surprisingly beautiful writing, this is the kind of book I would have loved as a young reader. As it was, I still enjoyed it immensely. It's rich and cultural without being garish or showcasing, and the characters were complex and interesting. I'll try and find the other books he's written on this particular family. he's a very strong writer. Literary but enjoyable. ( )
  kikilon | Mar 31, 2009 |

When her gambling, itinerant father is beaten up, Casey must stay with her grandfather in San Francisco's Chinatown. ( )
  BiblioKleptoManiac | Jul 5, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006440336X, Paperback)

Twelve-year-old Casey is waiting for the day that Barney, her father, hits it big -- 'cause when that horse comes in, he tells her, it's the penthouse suite. But then hr ends up in the hospital, and Casey is sent to Chinatown to live with her grandmother, Paw-Paw. Now the waiting seems longer than ever.

Casey feels lost in Chinatown. She's not prepared for the Chinese school, the noisy crowds, missing her father. But Paw-Paw tells her about the mother Casey never knew, and about her family's owl charm and her true Chinese name. And Casey at last begins to understand that this -- Paw-Paw's Chinatown home, her parents' home -- is her home,too.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:03 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A twelve-year-old girl who knows little about her Chinese heritage is sent to live with her grandmother in San Francisco's Chinatown.

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