The Legend of Auntie Po

The Legend of Auntie Po cover
The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor

By Shing Yin Khor
Kokila, 2021
290 pages

Ages 9-13

Chinese American Mei, 13, lives in a Sierra Nevada lumber camp in 1885. Her father, Hao, is the head cook; her best friend, Bee, white, is the daughter of the camp manager. Mei, who dreams of going to college someday, is a popular storyteller among the younger children of camp families, both white and Black. (There are no other Chinese families.) Her tales of Auntie Po, a larger-than-life Chinese woman who leads a lumber crew with the help of her blue water buffalo, Pei Pei, are a favorite of everyone, including Mei herself, who’s begun seeing Auntie Po on treks in the woods. Her presence is a comfort, but when a tragedy strikes the camp, Mei wonders if Auntie Po was only in her imagination after all. Still, the power of stories in general, and Mei’s storytelling in particular, help the children cope, while friendship and community prove essential to healing. There’s a lively sensibility and overall optimism suited to the spirit of tall-tale telling in this graphic novel, even as it tackles serious issues and events, especially anti-Chinese racism and limited opportunities and expectations for women and girls. An informative author’s note provides more information on the context of this story, including the Indigenous peoples whose history is part of this time and place. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center