Review: Parachute Kids
Betty C. Tang
April 2023, Scholastic Graphix
When I was four years old, my family moved back to the United States from Israel. I don’t remember much about that time—it was a long long time ago—but I do remember one moment: I remember standing in the hallway, outside my Pre-K classroom, and crying. I can close my eyes and see the empty hallway, which always leaves me with a cold empty feeling. While reading Parachute Kids, this memory kept coming back to me. Even though I have not thought of that time in years.
This graphic novel is loosely based on the author/illustrator’s own childhood experiences, but she uses memories and experiences of friends to create a story of her own. She captures the challenges of starting over in a strange land with an infinite amount of challenges.
When Feng-Li’s family comes to Los Angeles for vacation, she has no idea that her life is about to turn upside down. Her parents inform her and her siblings that they would be staying and enrolling in school. Feng-Li is told to choose an American name, because Americans have a hard time pronouncing Chinese names, and she randomly chooses Ann. Her father goes back to Taiwan to earn money for the family, but when her mother’s visa expires she returns to Taiwan, leaving Feng-Li’s 16-year-old sister in charge of her and her 14-year-old brother.
The kids must fend for themselves in a brand-new country with only a tight budget, unfamiliar customs, and a limited amount of English. Her brother and sister are constantly arguing. And unbeknownst to Feng-Li and her sister, their brother is struggling with his own identity and the burden of being the only son. This often leads him to poor choices and lashing out at his family.
When her brother’s actions land him in the hospital, Feng-Li does her best to pull her family together.
The characters here are well developed, especially Feng-Li. She has so many likable traits that she will have readers rooting for her as she navigates an almost impossible situation. The story has a lot of plot holes. There were a few times when I felt child protective services should have been alerted, but that might by my “old lady” reading lens, and younger readers might not pick up on it.
The endearing artwork, with color that pops and wide-eyed characters that mimic manga-style artwork, will easily find its audience. Readers who already go for books like Raina Telgemeier, The Baby Sitter’s Club, and the Sunny books will enjoy this title. Fans of novels like Kelly Yang’s Front Desk series will also enjoy reading about Feng-Li, as there are many thematic connections in these stories.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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