Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Set in ancient China, Bound is the story of Xing Xing, the stepdaughter of a sometimes cruel stepmother and half-sister. Called "lazy one," she tends for them but she is hardly the worst off. Instead, she gets to run errands to town, while her uglier half-sister must endure painful foot-bindings. But whether physically, emotionally, socially, or spiritually, all of them are truly bound in one way or another. That is, until the local prince announces a festival at which he will choose a bride, and Xing Xing discovers a wondrous secret left for her by her long-dead mother.

This retelling of Cinderella, in what turns out to be a more authentic source, actually works surprisingly well. So many of Napoli's books suffer from being great concepts but lousy applications. But this one works and works well. Napoli has captured a great understanding of Chinese culture and lifestyle, and meshed it to a familiar story, creating something quite original. I will continue to maintain that her stories are too dark and morbid (and full of very scary concepts) that make them a bit age-inappropriate for the middle reader audience she is shooting for, but this is a good book.


Some said...

woooooowwwww!!!!!! Are you serious? This is a middle school book and is basically a Chinese Cinderella story! PUH-LEASE! scary concepts?

Paul said...

Quite serious. The book may have been written for middle schoolers, but I didn't find it terribly age appropriate (keep in mind that most Grimm's Tales were never intended for younger readers -- this is not a Disney-sanitized version). There are a number of fairly threatening situations that younger readers might be disturbed by.

I take it that either you were not bothered by them or you are not a younger reader (I'm guessing the latter). That's fine. I think it is a good book and I hope you enjoyed it.

Kirsten said...

I am currently reading this book with my 7th grade class, and they are getting so much out of it! This includes the tie-ins to our social studies curriculum on the Ming dynasty and learning about the ways of thought such as Buddhism, and Confucianism. As far as morbid or scary concepts, I just have to say: Have you ever met or talking to a 13 year-old???

Kirsten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Hate to be rude here, but wow. I myself read this book a few years ago as a teenager. Trust me. 13 year olds have scarier stories inside their little heads to share with u than the ones in this book. Well written book FOR SURE. I must admit it is definitely slow for a 13 year old, but if you really think about the book, it has GREAT meaning. Good job Donna Jo, you have don it again!

Paul said...

I realized something this evening. What I meant was that the book was age-inappropriate for middle readers (not middle school readers). Middle readers are ages 8-12. 13 year olds are considered young adults.

But age guidelines are always a bit subjective. I think it is safe to say that the book contains mature themes and younger readers might be disturbed by them.

Hopefully, that assuages some justifiable indignation. My bad!