Book Review and Music Pairings: Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society, by Adeline Yen Mah

chinese_cinderella_secret_dragon_societyAs devastatingly drawn in Adeline Yen Mah’s autobiography, Chinese Cinderella, Adeline lived a terrible childhood in Shanghai (see my review here). However, to get away from the cruelty and the monstrosity of her upsetting life, she wrote stories about what she endured. One piece of writing was turned into a book: Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society.

The story begins with Adeline seeing a wonderful acrobatics show in the park one day. They hand her a business card with some words scripted on it that foreshadows the next few chapters. She walks home to her beloved Aunt’s house to find a man talking to her. Adeline learns his name is Master Wu, and he teaches Kung Fu. This is the start of a new beginning for Adeline. Master Wu was speaking in English with Adeline and decides that the name CC for Chinese Cinderella would really fit Adeline. So she is referred to as CC from then on.

CC’s aunt leaves to take care of a family member on a far-off island. CC knows that she will miss her aunt, but it is not until she gets kicked out of her own house by her father that she realizes how homesick for her aunt she becomes. She keeps wandering all by herself, alone and afraid until she comes to the park where just the day before she had seen the amazing Kung Fu acrobats. She rushes to a gardener nearby and wonders when they would perform next. He leads her right into them via…The Secret Dragon Society of Wandering Knights. CC has found her “home.” At this point in the story, I thought of the song “I can go the distance” from the Disney movie, Hercules. After all of CC’s troubles and wanting to belong, she had found the place. While enduring the rigorous training to become a Kung Fu master, her father calls her and wants her back home. She pretends she’s dead.

In both Chinese Cinderella and Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society, CC had some epic adventures. She is a character of great strength, and I admire her courage and potential. I felt like I was a part of her life while reading this story. Though I have never experienced devastating hardships like the ones she faced, I can draw inspiration from her promise to never give up and use it when I face my own challenges.

When you read a book about a character, real or not, who survives against all odds, how do you feel? Inspired? Moved? Motivated? And do you think you would be able to handle the situation? For example, I don’t think I would have the strength to survive being kicked out of my home and have the courage to join a Kung Fu society all within a day. Let me know your thoughts.

By the end of this book, I feel as though an uplifting song like “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas should be played in the movie version of this 10 out of 10 book. It reminds me of all of CC’s adventures as a Kung Fu fighter and her friends she made in the Society.

-Maya Salem, 6th grade

Book Review and Music Pairings: Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah

chinese_cinderellaThis was the most devastating book I have ever read!  This is the story about the torturous life of a little Chinese girl.  When she was born, her mother had a serious fever and died.  From then on, she was treated as the ‘bad luck child’.  Things got worse when she was four years old.  Her father remarried, and her step-mother was cruel, barely even noticing her.

Time passed until her first week of kindergarten where she was honored to be the ‘best student of the week.’  She got this award week after week, month after month.  Nobody congratulated her except for her kind aunt.  She and her aunt bonded and was the closest person to her.  Her aunt comforted her when nobody cared about her.  Then we learn the little girl’s name was Adeline.  Her father was very rich, but little Adeline shared only a tiny room with her aunt.  Unexpectedly, four of her siblings and her parents went on a trip.  It lasted almost a year!  When they were gone, it was paradise to be free of their strictness.  However, when they returned, Adeline learned that she and her family were moving to Shanghai.  Adeline was devastated.

In Shanghai, she attended a fantastic school and made a friend.  This became her new home where she felt  most comfortable.  However, her step-mother prevented any friends from coming over. Adeline’s home life was horrible because she lived on the third floor of the house in one room with all of her siblings.  The second floor was just for her new mom and father and their step children who received all of the attention.  No one from the third floor was allowed to enter the second floor.  During this part of the book, Adeline truly felt abandoned.  This reminded me of the song “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.  It is as if Adeline had fallen into that ring of fire.

As depressing as Adeline’s life was, there is a bright spot in which she felt she could accomplish anything and escape her past.  The author does a great job engaging the reader.  If this book was turned into a film, during the credits the song “Cold as Ice” by Foreigner should be played.  It really depicts Adeline’s interactions with her cruel step-mother, Niang.  I really liked this book but was frightened to know that this is a true story.  The author, Adeline Yen Mah, lived this life and survived.

-Maya S., 6th grade