Author: La Valley, Josanne
Life has been hard for fourteen-year-old Mehrigul, a member of the Uyghur tribal group scorned by the Chinese communist regime, so when an American offers to buy all the baskets she can make in three weeks, Mehrigul strives for a better future for herself and her family despite her father's opposition.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.00
Points: 7.0 Quiz: 158123
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: 13.0 Quiz: 61167
The Hornbook (00/07/14)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 05/01/2013 Since the Chinese government began to encroach upon the coal-rich lands of the ethnic Uyghur minority, fourteen-year-old Mehrigul’s farming family has had some difficult times. Her older brother ran away to escape prosecution after his involvement in anti-Chinese demonstrations, and now his share of the farming tasks has fallen upon his younger sister, forcing her to quit school. When one of Mehrigul’s decorative handwoven baskets catches the eye of an American buyer at the local market, Mehrigul is offered what seems to be a ridiculous amount of money for it, with the promise of more to come if she continues to produce baskets. Instead of relieving some of her family’s struggles, however, Mehrigul’s windfall and newly appreciated talent only augment the tension in her family as a host of repressed resentments roil to the surface. Mehrigul’s drunken, deceitful father steps easily into the role of villain, but La Valley sensitively reveals the roots of his pain in the loss of both his son and his status as provider for the family. The subtext of political advocacy for the Uyghur minority is unmistakable and may lead a few more socially minded readers to further explore the conflict, but it’s the carefully honed plot and palpable family tensions that will resonate with most youngsters. EB - Copyright 2013 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 04/15/2013 A stranger had thought her simple twist of vines to be of value. This thought buoys Mehrigul, a Uyghur (a Turkic ethnic group), even while her impoverished family struggles to exist in the northwest region of China once known as East Turkestan, where ethnic populations, as in Tibet, are being culturally marginalized. Mehrigul endeavors to become an artisan whose basketry is appreciated. Of course, more is at stake than selling some baskets to an interested American woman. Because the girl’s disgruntled gambler father needs her to do farmwork, she is no longer attending school and, therefore, is a target for government cadres to send south to work in a factory. A grandfather who believes in her gift inspires her determination to make something worthy for her benefactor’s shop and dream of a different life. La Valley’s debut is at times slowed by copious amounts of background on the region and its residents’ daily lives. But when the focus is squarely on Mehrigul, it both engages and teaches. - Copyright 2013 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 04/20/2013 Gr 5–9—Present-day East Turkestan is the setting for this compelling novel of a Uyghur girl's struggle to hold on to hope in the midst of poverty and oppression. Mehrigul, 14, has been forced by her embittered father to leave school and work on their farm, filling the role of her older brother, who has left the family to seek a better life. She must assume the responsibilities of her depressed and powerless mother; show respect for her father, who drinks and gambles away their meager earnings; and face the growing threat that she will be sent to work in a factory in southern China. On market day, an American woman offers a large sum of money to purchase a grapevine basket Mehrigul has made and asks her to make more, and the teen recognizes that her life could change. With the help and emotional support of her beloved grandfather and the drive to assure that her younger sister stays in school, Mehrigul begins making the baskets, slowly discovering her own talent and creativity, only to be thwarted by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The vivid and authentic sense of place, custom, and politics serves as an effective vehicle for the skillfully characterized, emotionally charged story. Mehrigul's dawning awareness of what it means to be an artist as well as her anger, frustration, and fear are palpable, conveying a true sense of the iron will underlying her submissiveness. The realistic and satisfying resolution will resonate with readers, even as they learn the fascinating details of an unfamiliar culture. An endnote and afterword provide valuable historical background. An absorbing read and an excellent choice for expanding global understanding.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY - Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.