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Project Mulberry

by Linda Sue Park

Published by Clarion, 2005
225 pages
ISBN: 0-618-47786-1

Ages 9-12

Julia and Patrick always work together on a project for the state fair. This year, they are having a hard time coming up with an idea that pleases them both. When Julia’s mother suggests they raise silkworms, as she did when she was growing up in Korea, Patrick embraces the idea wholeheartedly. Julia’s not so happy – raising silkworms doesn’t fit with the “all-American” projects usually found at the fair. As a member of the only Korean family in town, she’s uncomfortable drawing attention to her ethnicity. And the project isn’t easy – just where will they find the mulberry leaves the silkworms require as food? To add to her problems, Julia’s neglected to read through all the materials about raising silkworms – that’s Patrick’s job in their partnership -- and she is shocked to discover killing the insects is a necessary component of the project. The absorbing story of the silkworm scheme provides a framework for a more subtle look at race and identity. By examining Julia’s mother’s discomfort when the only mulberry tree in town turns up on the lawn of an African American man, Linda Sue Park confronts a topic seldom seen in children’s books in this country: prejudice between non-Caucasian Americans. Brief sections between chapters relate a spirited dialogue between the character Julia and the novel’s author – an unusual and clever device that allows readers a unique perspective on a writer’s creative process. (MVL) ©2005 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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