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Parachute Kids: A Graphic Novel

af Betty C. Tang

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9513284,577 (4.1)2
After their two-week family tour of Los Angeles, ten-year-old Feng Li Lin and her older brother and sister learn they will remain in California while their parents return to Taiwan, forcing them to navigate a new school, a new language, bullies, racism, and the pressures of running a household.
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Gr 4 Up—A family trip from Taiwan to California in 1981 turns from American Dream to nightmare when Feng-Li’s
parents tell her and her two siblings that they will be staying—on their own. Feng-Li plays peacemaker between her
brother and sister as they face overwhelming challenges. A memorable and compelling immigration story.
  BackstoryBooks | Apr 1, 2024 |
I was unfamiliar with the concept of parachute kids before reading this graphic novel about Taiwanese parents who take their children on a Disneyland vacation only to leave the kids behind to live on their own in an apartment -- overstaying their visas and attending California schools -- while the parents return to Taiwan to seek immigration through regular channels.

The younger sister, ten, is at the center of the story, trying to cope with isolation and bullying at school and her bickering siblings at home. The sixteen-year-old sister is super motivated to study hard and get into Harvard but starts to feel the pressure of also being a parent to her siblings. The brother in the middle, fourteen, is the black sheep of the family with the tendency to fall in with bad influences while poorly coping with a stressful secret.

In some ways it's a modern version of The Boxcar Children with the kids keeping house while having various misadventures that will build their character in the end.

(Best of 2023 Project: I'm reading all the graphic novels that made it onto one or more of these lists:
Washington Post 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2023
Publishers Weekly 2023 Graphic Novel Critics Poll
NPR's Books We Love 2023: Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels

This book made the NPR list.) ( )
  villemezbrown | Feb 17, 2024 |
Feng-Li is thrilled to be visiting America for the first time, especially to go see Disney, but little does she know that her parents intend to move the family there permanently. Worse still, as visas become an issue, her parents both most return to Taiwan, leaving Feng-Li's teen-aged siblings in charge.

This book tackles some very topics but somehow manages to remain kind of light in tone, focusing on relatively minor difficulties, such as sibling bickering and fitting in at school, that are a little more universal than the specific immigration situation of the family.

That being said, the immigration story is obviously the story of the book. In an author's note, Betty C. Tang describes being a "parachute kid" herself but explains that this story is not autobiographical but an amalgamation of stories she heard over the years along with fictions she invented. As an adult, it's heartbreaking to even conceive of a trio of children on their own, and sensitive young readers might need a little reassurance that they won't end up in such a situation.

The illustrations are brightly colorful and full of emotions. I also appreciate how the author wrote everything in English but indicated by differently colored dialogue bubbles and/or text when characters were speaking in Chinese.

Overall, this was an interesting book that will help young readers build empathy for their parents, siblings, neighbors, classmates, etc. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Dec 30, 2023 |
Tang has written her novel of real-life difficulties drawn from situations her own family and other friends experienced. The story very poignantly illustrated how difficult it is for the school-age people to integrate into a white North American society. It was a fascinating insight about immigrants to the USA from Taiwan with a well-done portrayal of specific challenges.

One can imagine this would be 100x harder without the parents there to support the children, while managing the adult responsibilities. Their kids having to adjust to school in a foreign language and an unfamiliar culture is an emotionally-challenging prospect. Tang keeps it realistic and shows the small ways it is so hard to adapt.

Especially valuable are the episodes that show what's different between the new country and the one the kids left behind: cultural expectations, teen reading material, strict enforcement of school apparel and personal appearances, not to mention political unrest, and families wanting safer places to live and raise their children.

A slight diversity in the sexual orientation of one of the characters in this novel was adroitly introduced. I think this small twist shows the social problems that exist in both countries, but that there is considerably less latitude within the immigrant family experience for acceptance. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Dec 2, 2023 |
Ten-year-old Feng-Li is excited about her family's vacation in America: they're planning on seeing the sights around L.A. and going to Disneyland! What's less exciting is when their parents tell Feng-Li and her older siblings that they're actually staying in America. What about her friends back in Taiwan? What about school? Over the course of the next few months, first their father and then their mother must return to Taiwan as their visas expire. The kids are left to take care of themselves, with the assistance of family friends who live not far away. Will they be able to get by on their own, living under the radar due to their own expired visas? Or will they run into trouble? And when will their parents be able to return?

This is a fascinating story drawn from the author's real-life experiences, combined with those of other parachute kids in similar situations. The art and writing are both good, and I liked the use of colored speech bubbles to denote when the characters were speaking their mother tongue. If you enjoy juvenile graphic novels featuring real-life stories, add this one to your reading list! ( )
1 stem foggidawn | Nov 30, 2023 |
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February 1981

Our first trip to America!
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After their two-week family tour of Los Angeles, ten-year-old Feng Li Lin and her older brother and sister learn they will remain in California while their parents return to Taiwan, forcing them to navigate a new school, a new language, bullies, racism, and the pressures of running a household.

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