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The Garden Of Empress Cassia (2002)

by Gabrielle Wang(Favorite Author)
3.79 of 5 Votes: 5
0141316497 (ISBN13: 9780141316499)
Puffin Books
review 1: What makes this novel by Gabrielle Wang so intriguing is that she mixes reality, fantasy, and doses of philosophy on the origins of good and evil in equal parts. The balance that results makes this primarily fantasy novel, "The Garden of Empress Cassaia", an altogether enjoyable book. The central character 12 year Mimi is awash with the uncomfortable feelings of parents whose Chinese heritage of heavily Mandarin influenced English accent, cutltural traditions of celebrating New Years and smell of dumplings, rice, and noodles is making Mimi's transition from childhood to adolescence even more of challenge. Mimi just doesn't feel in any way that she "fits into" her upper elementary school. Her parents own a herbalist store where the local townsfolk come in for natural remed... moreies for their aches and pains. Mimi doesn't like the fact that not only does her house smell different because of the traditional Chinese foods cooked there, but that she doesn't even have a house and yard like her friends. Instead, Mimi's parents have a sidewalk. Her school mates notice these differences and call her Smelly-Loo. To top it off, Her father Dr. Lu is extremely hard on Mimi, she once gets a 98% on math test, and her father tell her she can better. To top it off, Mimi has a fantastic ability and love for drawing and painting. Unfortunatley, her father thinks this ability is a waste of her energy and that Mimi is not only being willful, but recklesss with her future, and dishonoring her ancestors in the process. There seems no end to Mimi's miseryOf course not all is gray and grim in Mimi's world. Mimi has one advocate in teacher and fellow artist Mrs. O'Dell. Mrs. O'Dell recognizes the real talent that Mimi possesses, and gives her a a trusted set of pastel crayons. The real journey of Mimi from reality to fantasy, Ms. Wang takes the readers along as well, now begins. The crayons in the gifted hands of Mimi not only inspire her to new heights of creative imagination, Mimi creates a theme for the seasons titled 'Four Seasons in a Day', but the beauty is attracting crowds who marvel at her ability to capture in such a realistic way the serenity of a peaceful garden through the theme of changing seasons. Crowds begin to form outside her parents herbalist shop to soak in the wonderous settings drawn on the sidewalk. But, the beautiful murals are more than just works of art, they are portals of healing where individuals with physical, emotional, and psychological ills can literally immerse themselves in these paintings and enter a different dimension where they are healed. All the locals now jump into the garden paintings and are mentally and emotionally refershed: Mrs. Sternhop, Mrs. Jacob meets her dead husband George, Mrs. Honeybun, and the young drfiter Mr. Holes. All are given new life when they meet their ills and conquer them in these gardens of peace and tranquility painted by Mimi. Mrs. O'Dell warns Mimi that she is never to let anyone elese use her pastel crayons, and we find out in her nemesis Gemma how in the hands of those with malevolent thoughts, wishes, and desires any number of bad things for all in the town including Gemma can take shape.Gabrielle Wang's fantasy novel really takes the reader on an adventure. We see the very real painful experiences of growing up Chinese-Australian. One can understand why Gabrielle feels "embarassed" about her parents, her clothes and food, and the various traditons which seem to be preventing her from being a normal pre-teen in Australia. Wang's writing is simple in style, but it belies a complexity of ideas that stir like an underwater current just under the surface. Realistic topics of coming of age, intergenerational attitudes, of independence, and artistic versus career ambitions are in conflict throughout the novel. Meanwhile, Gabrielle Wang uses the medium of fantasy to discuss an important philosophical and spiritual theme; art is both a means towards healing and self discovery for both Mimi and all who encounter it. Mimi's Garden of the Empress Cassia can in the wrong hands, Gemma, be used for evil as well. The reader gets the message that some individuals will attempt to use her gifts for their own selfish pursuits and usually at the destruction of others. The idea of good and evil coming from the pastel crayons being determined by the person who wields the tools is both a good vehicle to drive this fantasy plot, and a very real commentary that it is the person and not the devices we use in this person which can create good and bad outcomes. Gabrielle Wang's "The Garden of Empress Cassia" is a slim novel packed full of ideas the authors poses to the reader.
review 2: Preteen Chinese-Australian Mimi is embarrassed of her Asian heritage. Her schoolmates call her names because of the food odors which cling to her clothes and her father disapproves of the one thing which makes Mimi happy--painting. She is given a set of magical pastels which allows certain people to "enter" the paintings she draws on the sidewalk. A jealous classmate steals the pastels and Mimi fears harm will come to the girl. This sweet story emphasizes the confusion felt by a girl who just wants to fit in. Her parents want Mimi to be involved in Chinese activities and to be proud of her heritage but they don't understand what misery she is put through at school (real and imagined). A good chapter book with vocabulary appropriate for upper elementary students. Thanks to Puget Sound Council for this review copy. less
Reviews (see all)
The best book i have read. I wished the story continued.
I read this book when I was little, I loved it.
I could just imagine everything. I loved it.
This was really sweet and encouraging
it wasnt good but it wasnt bad
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