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Review of Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire
by Susan Tan; illus. by Dana Wulfekotte
Primary, Intermediate    Roaring Brook    250 pp.
3/17    978-1-61672-551-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-62672-552-2    $9.99

The only child of a white mother and Chinese American father, eight-and-a-half-year-old Cilla is not thrilled by their announcement that she is going to have a sibling. Worried that this new arrival, whom she calls “The Blob,” will cause her family to ignore her, Cilla decides to write a bestseller before the birth that will maintain her top status in the family. A good part of Cilla’s life involves her grandparents, whom she sees weekly — her mother’s parents on Saturdays and her father’s on Wednesdays. While most of Cilla’s observations are lighthearted ones of daily life along the lines of other spunky girls in children’s books (Ramona, Clementine, et al.), she also puzzles through her own identity as a mixed-race child (especially when experiencing microaggressions: she responds to a stranger’s “What are you, exactly?” with “I…am a future author extraordinaire”) and her grandparents’ discomfort with one another because of race. Happily, the book ends on a hopeful note as the little sister’s birth predictably brings the two sets of grandparents together. Although adult readers may need to suspend disbelief at some of the sophisticated comments and references coming from this very young writer, Cilla’s liveliness, vulnerability, and thoughtfulness make her an endearing and entertaining narrator. Winsome black-and-white illustrations are scattered throughout this good-hearted book.

From the May/June 2017 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Humor.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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