Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah
During her lonely childhood in Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah wrote adventure stories to escape from her terrible step-mother and cruel siblings. The characters she created often became more real to her than her own family. In Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society, Adeline tells the story of Chinese Cinderella, a young girl who, after being thrown out of her home, has no choice but to go out and seek her own destiny. Soon she meets up with a group of children, all orphaned but each from a different background, who live with an old lady called Grandma Wu. Chinese Cinderella, or CC for short, decides her future after consulting an ancient book which helps to show her the way forward. And her choice takes her on a mission to save the lives of others. Based on a true-life incident during World War II. CC and the others bravely rescue a group of American pilots whose plane crashed after a bombing raid on Japan. Although her father is looking for her, CC knows that she can never go back to live with her cruel stepmother, and now there is no turning back.
This book follows CC, a girl whose step-mother makes her life miserable and whose father never seems happy. She frequently finds comfort in visiting Big Aunt, but she has to return to her home to care for a sick elderly lady. CC is lost, and by chance stumbles upon a circus act. One of the performers hands her his business card and the following day she seeks this group out. What she finds is The Secret Dragon Society – masters of kung fu and lending a helping hand. With intense lessons and training, CC is about to enter a whole new world: one where she ends up helping American soldiers hide from the Japanese.
This is a children’s book, but I enjoyed reading it. It didn’t take long to end and the story was engaging. I liked CC and her perseverance, and I liked Grandma Wu. She was wise, but comforting and loving. The family she had formed from the orphans was lovely to read about.
This is a book full of imagination and action. The description of the kung fu is wonderful, and just reading it I was left in awe. It seems to take such talent and Yen Mah caught the essence well. I liked that she explored how kung fu was more than fighting, and looked at the mental aspects of the skill as well.
It seemed that a lot of research went into this book. There are fairly long sections explaining things such as Buddhism, and the how The Society functions and makes decisions. These were important to the book but I did sometimes feel a bit bored reading them after a while. I thought they were perhaps a bit too long-winded.
Overall, this is not a bad read. Even though it is a children’s book I think adults will enjoy it too. There is adventure and action in this book, as well as family love and friendship. It was not a hard read and I enjoyed it.