Cover Image: Prairie Lotus

Prairie Lotus

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Member Reviews

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What an INCREDIBLE book. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think that this is the kind of book that Little House on the Prairie could have been. In it, the protagonist, a 14-year-old half white-half Chinese girl named Hanna experiences microaggressions, overt racism, and violence while living on the prairie in the late 1800s.

As she experiences all of this, she gives us a glimpse into the toll those actions take—the exhaustion, the anger, and the fear she feels having to navigate a racist community. 

Through it all, she is her own savior, showing her resilience, her ingenuity, and her strength. 

Read this book, and when you’re finished, do yourself a huge favor, and read the afterword. It’s SO good.
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Thank you, Linda Sue Park, for this book!  My only complaint is that the book had to end. This book is a beautiful look at what it means to be racially different in the late 1800’s in a blooming homesteading town. Reminiscent of Ingles’ Little House on the Prairie (the author herself says this book was inspired by the Little House books), this book differed in that we got a really deep dive into the main character, Hanna, who is Chinese-American. 

My favorite part of the Little House series is reading about how families lived during that time. I loved this book because while Park beautifully described life in LaForge she also beautifully describes what it was like to be half Chinese living in LaForge. 

Bravo to Linda Sue Park for this amazing book that every child should read. And brave to Hanna for standing up to grown-ups and children alike for what is fair and right. 

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Clarion Books, and Linda Sue Parker for sharing an advance copy of Prairie Lotus which will be published on March 3, 2020. All opinions are my own.

Hanna is a young half-Asian girl living with her father in the small, newly formed town of LaForge, South Dakota during the 1880s. Her mother, who died three years ago, was Chinese and a seamstress. She passed down her love and talent for sewing to Hanna. Hanna's father started moving them east away from Los Angeles following her mother's death. They finally settle in LaForge where they plan to open a dress goods store. Hanna dreams of going to school and getting her diploma, something her mother wanted, and to be a dressmaker in her father's shop. Because she is half-Chinese, she must deal with many prejudices and obstacles.

There are so many things to love about this book. Hanna is a strong, vibrant, and determined female protagonist. Though she is young, she seems to be wise beyond her years and her perspective causes the reader to reevaluate what they know about history, society, and their own views and prejudices. Throughout the book, Hanna makes many important points about the way she and the native Americans are treated. She faces outright racism as well as micro agressions. This book fills a hole in middle grade historical fiction and our history curriculum in general. We teach that immigration occurred and that the Chinese built the railroads, but what is generally overlooked in curriculum is the treatment of the Chinese and their descendants. Though this book is historical fiction, it is still poignant and makes the reader look at how they treat others. I believe that middle grade readers will find Hanna's story inspiring, humorous, harrowing, and captivating. It's also a fairly short book that reads rather quickly.
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When I first started reading Prairie Lotus, it seemed like just another prairie story—but soon I realized it was quite different. Linda Sue Park has come up with quite a well-written story that makes her readers think about the world a bit differently—and examine their own attitudes toward other people.
Hanna and her father had been on the move for three years, searching for a place to settle. Hanna always hoped, when they entered a new town, that this would be their home for a long time, and that she would be able to go to school. As they approached LaForge, Dakota Territory, all she really looked forward to was being able to buy groceries; as usual, she stayed hidden while her father checked out the village. What a surprise when he announced to her that he had bought a lot and planned to build a dress goods shop.
Hanna started school while her father built his shop. After her classmates realized, on her second day, however, that she was half Chinese, she was suddenly one of only a few students left. Would she be forced to leave school before she graduated? And then there was her lifetime dream of making dresses. Could she talk her father into allowing her to sew a dress to display in the shop? Or would his fear of what the townspeople said prevent her from following her dream? What about the grand opening itself? Would people even come to it?
This story is a very thought-provoking look at racism. The Chinese people have always been looked down on in America, but they aren't the only ones. The Indians are featured in this book, as well. Hanna realized that both Indians and “Chinamen” were being discriminated against by the white people, and she determined to do something to change people's views. Although this is not a Christian book, I appreciate the way this author has portrayed the fact that all people are the same, and that it is not right to look down on others because of their physical appearance.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Hanna frequently uses Mama's favorite curse: Rotten eggs. In chapter 23, two men try to molest her.
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Hanna and her father leave Los Angeles after her mother is killed in racial incidents in 1880 and go to the Dakota territory to start over. Their plan is to open a dry goods store and, as Hanna hopes, a dress shop where she can work. A good friend of her father, Mr. Harris, is supportive, but Hanna is worried because her mother was half Chinese and half Korean (and raised by American missionaries), and there is no one who looks like her on the prairie. When she starts school, she keeps her sun bonnet on even though the teacher, Ms. Walters, has been welcoming. Eventually, the other students realize her ethnic background, and their parents pull them out of school. There is a meeting, but it is agreed that until they hear differently from higher ups, Hanna must be allowed to be educated. Bess Harris stays, but eventually the plan emerges to let Hanna and Bess take their final exams to graduate. That way, Hanna fulfills her promise to her mother to finish her education, and the other students can come back to school. After the shop is finished, Hanna and her father ask Bess to come and work for them as they prepare a dress to sell in the shop. Bess' mother isn't thrilled, but reluctantly visits and sees that the shop is clean and nice; she has heard that "Chinamen are dirty", but Hanna points out examples that they are not. There are some people in town who are nice, like Charlie, but when the town drunk attacks Hanna, it is HER reputation that is sullied until the women of the town are contacted, and they give their support. Hanna also meets a group of Sioux women and has a pleasant interaction with them, and she feels bad that the Native Americans are treated badly. When her father hears about her meeting, he tells her she must report the women as being away from their designated area without a pass, although Mr. Harris later says that that law is meant more for the men who might be a threat. The shop opens, and the townspeople reluctantly accept the Edmunds family and their business.

Strengths: This includes many of the details that made me love Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, and Park includes a great note that talks about her love of the books but her problems with their racist qualities. Hanna loves to sew and wants to be a dressmaker, bringing to mind Laura's job in Little Town on the Prairie (my favorite in the series). The town dynamics are realistic, and the various families have qualities that are a nod to Wilder's characters. The interactions with the Sioux (the term used at that time) women are sensitively done, keeping in mind both the feelings at the time and Hanna's knowledge that these are not right. Very well done.
Weaknesses: At one point, Hanna recalls conversations with her mother, who said she was also "half-half", and her language seemed stilted; if May had been adopted by American (sic) missionaries as a baby, her English would have been standard.
What I really think: Is Hanna's father modeled off Mr. Edwards? Because I can see him having traveled to the west coast and married a Chinese woman! Readers of Wilder's series will look for details like this, and new readers will be fascinated by the details of life on the prairie in the 1880s.
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This book was great! Being an immigrant, I love reading about people trying to find their place on this country. Hanna, the protagonist, is having an especially hard time because she is half-Chinese and without a mother. Her father is trying his best but he can hardly relate to his daughter’s struggles.
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I enjoyed reading this book.  It was an excellent book. I loved the way that she was determined.  As hard as it was for her parents to marry, I was confused as to how oblivious he was to her problems and concerns.   I wish the author had explained his attitude better. Still,  I did enjoy the book and would recommend it!
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Linda Sue Park is one of my favorite authors who writes historical fiction for young teens. I loved her Newbery Award winning book, A Single Shard. 

Park is a Korean American and most of her stories include Korean characters. She shares that the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books inspired this story.  

The main character in Prairie Lotus is a girl, Hanna, who is mixed race - part Chinese and part Caucasian. The story revolves around the adjustments she is experiencing after her Chinese mother dies. Hanna and her father move from California to North Dakota in the late 1800s with the intention of opening a dress goods store. Hanna learned much from her mother before her death that serves her well in her new life in North Dakota. Hanna’s mother taught her to sew and she blossomed into a gifted seamstress. Her mother also encouraged her to finish school and advised her, “For the person who is sour, do something sweet.” This was invaluable advice as she experienced some difficulties in her new community, especially as it relates to racial prejudices. Throughout the course of the book, we see Hanna become a strong and humble person who confronts the prejudices she experiences in her midwest prairie town. 

Park writes with honesty and sensitivity as she addresses a difficult topic,  She certainly crafted these stories of prejudice from personal experience. Our kids need to be reading these stories from another’s perspective, to develop understanding and empathy. 

Linda Sue Park’s books are always worthwhile. As someone who works in education, I think her books should be required reading. The bonus in making them required reading is that she is an excellent writer and students will enjoy the diverse characters and stories.
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Hard to put into words how excited I am for this book.  So many teachers search for a book that discusses the frontier experience, and Linda Sue Park, offers up a story that gives us a much more nuanced view of what happened to someone who was half-Chinese but still tried to settle on the frontier.  With a compelling character, historical research, and a story that pulls you in, I cannot wait to see what others think of this book.
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Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group

Clarion Books

Children’s Fiction

Pub Date 03 Mar 2020

I am reviewing a copy of Prairie Lotus through Houghton Mifflin Harvourt Children’s Book Group/Clarion Books and Netgalley:

Hanna is a half Asian girl in the Heartland of America in the 1880’s. She’s new to town, and has to adjust to her new surroundings and with that comes to deal which means having to deal with the towns almost unanimous prejudice against Asians.

Hanna could not let the towns attitudes stop her from reaching her dreams. She is determined to get an education, to work in her Fathers dress shop. And she dreams of making one friend.

I found Prairie Lotus to be a well written, well researched middle grade novel, touched on two tough subjects, coming of age and discovering who you are, at a time when everyone judges a person by the way they look, because they are half Asian, or whatever there difference may be.

I give Prairie Lotus five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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A phenomenal story whose main character you will empathize with and root for. An excellent substitution for the Little House books, it would pair well with The Wind Called My Name for a more diverse depiction of the territory than previous books have offered. It would also work well with The Other Half of Happy as part of an exploration of being bicultural. Highly recommend!
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PRAIRIE LOTUS is a book I will be recommending far and wide. Linda Sue Park admits freely that it is inspired by the Little House books, and fans of those books (who recognize their racist, one-story problems) will appreciate the care that Park has taken to tell this story.  With a similar setting, Park sets out to retell the pioneer story, from the viewpoint of a half-Chinese, half-white 14 year old girl. I adore Hanna and her story, and I hope that Park will continue to write more stories about Hanna and her experiences.  Hanna is resourceful, smart, and resilient, and throughout the story learns to find the courage to push back against microagressions, stand her ground against blatant racism, and stand up for her own goals and dreams.  Park did her research, and kept the details of the book realistic, telling a story that truly could have happened. Her author’s notes at the end are invaluable, as we see that this story was born from her childhood wondering if she and Laura Ingalls could have been friends. 

Despite all the parallels, this is not just a retelling - this is Park’s story, and she tells it beautifully. Her descriptions of the dress shop, sewing, the school, and all the chores that fell on Hanna’s shoulders, are fascinating. Hanna’s memories of her mother are touching and give the reader so much insight into Hanna’s personality. 

Readers looking for MG historical fiction, particularly about American pioneers, will enjoy this honest, realistic, hopeful story of a determined, intelligent, courageous girl, coming of age and finding her place in this often-harsh world.

Thanks to #NetGalley for providing an e-ARC of this book.
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Half-Asian Hanna has arrived with her white father to a new and growing prairie town. The community is not, however, welcome to Hanna, who has to fight to ensure her place in school and whose presence threatens her father's newly formed business. Hanna is a likeable and thoughtful MC who is able to distinguish friends from foes and doesn't balk at acknowledging (at least to herself) when her allies are less brave and more complacent than she wishes they would be. While the book ends on a cheery note there's something sad and longing throughout the entire narrative that makes one hope Hanna is able to one day leave the community which so badly undervalues her.
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I went into this book not sure what to expect.  I am a fan of Linda Sue Park, but not of the original Little House books.  Not because of any of the current issues that concern adults about these books, but because I found them boring as I did most historical fiction.  Prairie Lotus was anything but boring.  I loved the characters and I could see the parallels to the Wilder books which Park was a fan of growing up, but she goes so far beyond them.  I found her author's note to be as interesting as the book itself.  I love hearing about the how and why of writing, not necessarily the nitty gritty detail, but the thought process and reasons for making certain choices.  It added even more shades of meaning to a story which already had a great deal of depth.   As always, the thought, research, and care she puts into her writing makes the book shine.  i can't wait to recommend this to the kids in my library.  I wish it were already released!
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Loved it! Really looking forward to sharing it with students.                ..                       .         .             ..
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14-year-old Hanna and her father journey in their wagon to LaForge, a town in the Midwest, for a new start. Hanna's mother, who died when she was 10, was Chinese. Will the people of LaForge be accepting of Hanna as she and her father try to open a shop? Will Hanna be able to attend school and earn her diploma, as her mother wished? Prairie Lotus is a compelling tale of life in a small town on the Midwestern prairie in the 1800s. Reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of this book, Linda Sue Park, includes an explanation of the similarities in a section included after the book's conclusion. Of interest to middle grade students, this selection would be a welcome addition to any elementary library collection. It's thought-provoking, engaging, and written with sensitivity.
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This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - Clarion Books in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I am a fan of Linda Sue Park and have not read a book that I did not like.  Prairie Lotus focused on an Asian girl named Hanna who ends up in a small town and learns the small town lifestyle and what it means to get an education, a job as a dressmaker in her father's shop, and earn the acceptance of the townspeople and their discrimination against Asians. Even in the 1800's we are battling this issue and it is informative and quite the learning experience to see how it all began and how times have changed. Linda Sue Park does a brilliant job opening the eyes of the reader and transporting them into the small farm 1800s setting and exploring what the town was life for Hanna. Such a great read that the schools should definitely look into and that we would be happy to share with.

We will consider adding this title to our JFiction collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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