Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Shu-Li and Tamara

Yee, Paul (Author)
Wang, Shaoli (Illustrator)
Tradewind Books 2008. 72 pages
First published: 2008
ISBN: 9781896580937 (paperback)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

dialogue

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Timid Shu-Li is thrilled when new classmate Tamara arrives—she finally has a friend. A nasty rumour about Tamara plagues Shu-Li and casts a shadow over the friendship even as they share new experiences.

Told in the third person, Shu-Li’s experience as a Chinese immigrant is compassionately described. Proud of her parents, she still cringes at how her mother speaks, especially in front of snooty classmates at the family restaurant. “‘Welcome you to Yum-Yum Deli,’ called out Ma. The girls burst out laughing. Shu-Li’s face reddened.” And at school, she suffers. “Shu-Li wanted to make a suggestion, but her hands were shaking. They always trembled when she had to speak out.”

Colourful descriptions of the restaurant kitchen and Vancouver’s Commercial Drive lend vibrancy to the story. Shoppers hunt for Italian sausages and Ethiopian coffee, and school children prepare for a multicultural school fair. Evocative yet clear language is enhanced by black and white illustrations. “Ba was hard at work, stirring a wok full of crackling, sizzling fish with black bean sauce.”

The reader is introduced to different cultural understandings. With Shu-Li showing her, “soon Tamara was making perfect dumplings.” In turn, Shu-Li learns how Tamara and her single mom struggle financially, yet with good grace. “’Where do you sleep?’ Shu-Li asked. ‘Right here,’ Tamara explained, sitting down on the couch.”

Recipes and a yearbook-like illustration of the classmates provide a satisfying closure to this warm story about friendship, loyalty and acceptance.

  •  On Saturday mornings, the main character of this story must work for her parents in their restaurant. Discuss how your life would be different if you had to work instead of doing what you usually do on a Saturday morning.
  •  

    Shu-Li is ashamed of her mother when she speaks broken English with customers. Explain why an elementary student might react so negatively to an adult who is doing their best to communicate in a language that is not their mother tongue.

  •  

    The girls have an unlikely friendship that becomes a relationship of trust. Describe what friends do to earn each other's trust.

  •  

    The main character must work at her parents’ restaurant on Saturday mornings. Discuss how it would change your Saturday morning if you were in the same situation.

  •  Create character maps for both Shu-Li and Tamara. How are the two friends similar and different?
  •  

    Note the acts of kindness in this story. What other acts of kindness could you perform at home or at school?

  •  

    The two girls prepare a fundraising activity to help buy goats for African families. Explore how you could help a cause in your area.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship