Book Review: View From Pagoda Hill, by Michaela MacColl (Historical Fiction) Note: This book is not yet in Pageturner's Library and needs a student submission request in order to be purchased.    (Recommended for grades 5-8 but rewarding for high school students, as well)
This is a coming of age novel based on the true story of the life of award-winning author Michaela MacColl's great-great-great-grandmother.  We find ourselves in 1870s Shanghai, China, where Ning knows she doesn’t belong.  She doesn’t have the traditionally tiny, bound feet that make it so difficult to walk, and her frustrated mother despairs of ever finding a marriage match for her.  (For over two thousand years, marriages in China were arranged between two families and often still are. If you’ve seen Disney’s movie, “Mulan,” you’re familiar with the traditional Chinese role of matchmaker.)  Ning sticks out in a country where sticking out is considered very bad form.  She is also biracial—her father is a white American—having inherited his height, she stands out that way, too. She has always believed her differences are the reason her own mother doesn’t really love or fully accept her.

12 years old, Ning is surprised to learn that her father will soon be visiting, and she excitedly hopes they will finally be a family. Instead, he intends to take her back to the USA.  Once recovered from the shock of leaving the only home she’s ever known—and traveling almost 8,000 miles (more than twice the distance of the USA from east to west and back again) to an unknown city called New York-- she hopes to be accepted there in ways she’s never been, before.

(Between 1865 and 1869, thousands of Chinese migrants , imported by private corporations, worked at a grueling pace in perilous conditions to help build America's first Transcontinental Railroad. By 1870, however, the country was in a funk, and people were losing their jobs and their money, too; resentment against Chinese people was growing. By 1882, Congress would pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, which created an absolute, 10-year ban on Chinese workers immigrating to the United States. For the first time, federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the livelihoods of U.S. citizens.)

Trying to maintain optimism” in New York, “Ning is shocked to realize that the townsfolk have absurd assumptions of her and of China. Readers will take an unnerving journey with the young protagonist as she juggles her two identities, all in the hopes of one day having friends to play with and a family to love her just as she is.”  -- Beronica Puhr, in the School Library Journal, Jul 20, 2021