Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

I was catching up on others' blog posts last weekend when I came across a review of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang at A Year of Reading. It was written by one of the contributors' (Mary Lee) brother. After reading his review, I decided that this book needed to be on my TBR list. Imagine my surprise and delight when I got to our public library late Saturday afternoon, and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu was sitting on the children's "New Book" shelf!! I snatched it up and made it my #bookaday reading for today.

Mary Lee's brother, Dave, was so right about this book! I started it, and finished it within a three hour period. I was totally involved with the main character, Lucy, and her attempts to mesh her Chinese heritage/relatives with her American way of life.

Lucy has complicated relationships with everyone in her family. Her older sister, Regina, is the beautiful "perfect" child and is headed off to college. They share a room that Lucy can't wait to claim as her own. Her older brother, Kenny, is a math and science whiz and is always immersed in a book; he doesn't have time for a younger sister. Her parents love her very much, but they ask her to do two things she doesn't want to do: 1) share her room with her great-aunt coming to visit from China, and 2) quit playing basketball for the school team so that she can go to Chinese school on Saturdays instead. For someone who loves basketball as much as Lucy, this is a huge sacrifice. Her great-aunt, Yi Po, is a kind gentle soul but she annoys Lucy just because they have to share a space that Lucy had thought would be her own. Lucy even moves furniture to divide the room into what is hers and what is Yi Po's (thus, the title - The Great Wall...).

And those are just the issues with her family. There are other important issues at school that come with being a 6th grader. The school issues will all be ones to which students can relate.

As the story unfolds, the author does a great job of explaining how difficult life for Chinese people was, both in China during the revolution and in America, during and after World War II, in a way that student readers will be able to understand.

After reading The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, I immediately ordered it for our classroom. It will be a book to which I direct many students. I love the cultural aspects of this book, and know that many of my students will relate to that as well.


  1. Hi Karen and Bill,

    I wanted to let you know that your blog was named to the Top Teacher Blogs by Innovative Educators at


  2. Hi Charles - Thanks so much for including us in such rich company!! This is quite the honor!


    p.s. Bill will be grateful as well, but is currently with a bus of soon-to-be 6th graders, exploring historic Boston.

  3. Thanks Karen!

    Would you be interested in participating in our teacher career interview series to provide insights for future teachers?

    If yes, please email me at

    Thank you!