Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Project Mulberry

Project Mulberry (Clarion, 2005)(ages 8-12) is Linda Sue Park's latest novel and her first to have a contemporary setting. Seventh grader Julia Song and her best friend Patrick are members of Wiggle (a sort of 4-H type organization), have always done projects together and want to do one for the state fair. For once, they're at a loss for an idea - their houses and families won't accommodate livestock. Then Julia's mother suggests raising silkworms, which she did as a child back in Korea. While Patrick is enthusiastic, it strikes Julia as "too Korean" (she also has some hilarious issues with kimchee). Their problems mount when they discover that silkworms only eat mulberry leaves, and there's only one source in town...

Interspersed between chapters are conversations between Julia and author Park that provide insights into the author's writing process. I will confess that I was somewhat skeptical when first told of this, because I thought it might detract from the reader's willingness to suspend disbelief. Having read it, though, I have to say that it doesn't and, more, think it serves the story by illuminating the character in a fresh and engaging way.

Altogether, an unusual and charming take on animal husbandry, friendship, growing up Korean American, and the process of writing a novel.

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