Monday, December 21, 2015

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Family and loss are themes that are not usually the themes in jfic books and when one does encounter one such book it is hard not to feel depressed upon completion of the book. This novel is different however, so light is the author's touch (it is no wonder she has won awards for her writing) that the book is a page turner despite the heavy subject matter.

Set in the sixties our story focuses on a Chinese- American family in Pennsylvania. As in most families they don't always see eye to eye but their love of baseball unites them.  Ba is the patriarch and he is a strict no-nonsense guy who lives by the Confucian ideals. The three children Peter, the central protagonist, the youngest child Elaine and the oldest son Nelson are obedient although they sometimes chafe at Ba's view of the world.

Peter idolizes his older brother Nelson both for his natural grace, his skill at baseball and also because he is a cool big brother. After tragedy strikes the family's very core is cut through and Peter's mom retreats into herself. Peter tries everything he knows to get her to come out oh her self-imposed shell.

Sports, and in particular baseball is the family's favorite pastime and Peter is surprised when his father, perhaps the most orderly, reserved person he knows volunteers to coach his Little League baseball team.  He and his teammates are even more surprised at Ba's methods but surprisingly they bear fruit.  Father and son will learn some important lessons through having to work together for the team.

Despite the sad events this book describes it is written in a gripping style and the historical references would make this a good starting point for Social Studies units and even for guidance lessons dealing with family tragedy. I would also recommend this for reluctant readers and especially boys because of the themes of friendship and sports. This would be a good book for ages 10+.

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