Week-end Book Review: The Secret Keepers by Paul Yee

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Reviewed by Abigail Sawyer:

Paul Yee,
The Secret Keepers
Tradewind Books, 2011.

Ages: 11+

It is 1906 in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and the world has just come to an end; the world of Jackson Leong and his family at least. After their father’s death several months earlier, Jack, his older brother Lincoln, his two younger sisters, and their mother relocated from a farm in the Sacramento area to be near family in the bustling city. Now 16-year-old Lincoln, who “was big and tall and had quickly learned everything the family needed to know about their new hometown” has been killed in the aftermath of the great earthquake, leaving Jack to keep the family together while trying to manage the nickelodeon business his brother had begun. On top of all this, Jack’s “yin-yang eyes” see ghosts everywhere: and they seem to be trying to tell him something…

Read the full review

Read our interview with Paul Yee, in which he talks about The Secret Keepers.

PaperTigers 10th Anniversary – My Top 10 Multicultural Ghost Stories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

I thought I’d counted very carefully, honest guv’nor, but somehow one extra ghost snuck in there – I’m not sure which one – and I’ve ended up with a ‘Reader’s 10′. (If you’re not sure what a Reader’s 10 is, you’ll need to look at Janet Wong’s Top 10: Multicultural Poetry Picks (2002-2012)). So here’s a list of my favorite ghost encounters – they cover a range of age-groups and genres. Some of the ghosts are friendly, some make you ponder, and some are just plain terrifying…

~ The Young Inferno by John Agard, illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura – I’ve blogged about this modern take on Dante’s Inferno for a teen audience here and here.  It sends shivers down my spine every time I read it.

~ Takeshita Demons by Cristy Burne – Miku has just moved from Japan to the UK and it soon becomes clear that several yokai demons have followed her there.  When her little brother is kidnapped, her empty, snow-bound secondary school unexpectedly becomes a battle-ground… this will have you on the edge of your seat!

~ Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott – I read this earlier this year on a very choppy ferry crossing and was so riveted that I remained oblivious to the scene of sea-sick desolation around me – yes, I loved it.  Read my review here.

~ Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara – it was love at first sight here with both the illustrations and the sweet story of a witch and her cat who move into a new house that’s full of ghosts.  Imagine putting ghosts through the washer and hanging them up as curtains!

~ Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan – Hannah meets more than she bargained for when she goes to stay with Japanese family friends for the winter – and readers might just have to sleep with the light on after being carried along through the pages into the small wee hours!

~ Just In Case by Yuyi Morales – in this gorgeous sequel to the equally funny and delightful Just A Minute, the ghost of Zelmiro “helps” Señor Calavera to find twenty-two (Spanish Alphabet) presents for Grandma Beetle’s birthday – and tricks him into giving her what she wants most…

~ Requiem for a Beast by Matt Ottley – there are many ghosts in this tour de force combining spoken and written text, graphic narrative, and music that blends Australian Aboriginal song and movements from the Latin Requiem: both in the lost memories of the stolen generation, and at the end of a young man’s physical and psychological journeys to come to terms with his family’s past.

~ Home of the Brave by Allen Say – a man’s kayaking excursion suddenly brings him into a bewildering, dreamlike encounter with the ghosts of Japanese-American children incarcerated during the Second World War, and jolts him into insight of his own family history.

~ The Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins retold by John Matthews, illustrated by Giovanni Manna – as might be expected from a Barefoot anthology, this is a beautifully presented and the nine stories from all over the world make great read-alouds. Most notable among the ghosts is the love-sick Cheyenne “Ghost with Two Faces”.

~ The Secret Keepers by Paul Yee – I have to admit, I had real difficulty deciding which one of Paul Yee’s ghost stories to choose for this list… They are all compelling books that are impossible to put down so I’ve gone for The Secret Keepers for purely personal reasons because I was there at the launch and heard Paul reciting the opening.

~ The Ghost Fox by Laurence Yep – a small boy has to use his wits to save his mother from the evil Ghost Fox intent on stealing her soul.  Vivid descriptions and attention to detail; plkenty of tension and some humor too.  Favorite quote: (Fox speaking to servant) “Fool, you don’t celebrate a great victory with turnips.”

And P.S. If you haven’t yet seen our fabulous 10th Anniversary Giveaway, announced yesterday, go here right now!