Yang the Eldest and His Odd Jobs

Yang the Eldest and His Odd Jobs by Lensey Namioka

This is the final installment in the series about the Yang family.

Eldest Brother may be the most talented member of the family string quartet but when his violin needs repair, the news is bad.  The repairs would be so costly that it may be better to just buy a new instrument.  But Eldest Brother has never held a job, never really had time for anything other than his music.  He tries many different ways to make money, in the process making friends and seeming more American that he ever has before.  But Third Sister is worried.  Is Eldest Brother becoming so American that he is now valuing money over his music? It will take the whole family to help Eldest Brother find balance in his life.

Since the Yang series chronicles an immigrant family, it is very interesting to read the comparisons between America and China. Namioka points out how in China any student with the talent of Eldest brother would receive an instrument and lessons from the government, a stark contrast to the limited support for the arts we have here in the US.  She also explains why the family had to leave China and the political consequences they faced for breaking the one family, one child mandate.  It’s all done in a very age appropriate manner.  Namioka also points out that while some Americans can’t tell or don’t know the difference between the Chinese and Japanese, that there is in fact some animosity historically between these groups.

While this is certainly an easy enough book for many third graders, the focus on Eldest Brother, who is a teenager, may make it less appealing to students so young, and perhaps a better fit for middle grades students.  I will say though that students with a cultural connection to Eldest Brother may have a greater understanding of the issues presented in the book and therefore be interested in it at a younger age.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Second Sister goes on dates with a boy.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – Elder Brother injures himself at work and there is quite a bit of blood.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

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One Response to Yang the Eldest and His Odd Jobs

  1. PLW says:

    Kudos to you, Mrs. N. for a wonderful month of books in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Great multicultural resource!

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