NWAW’s December must-reads

By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly

“The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya”
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2009

The SOS Brigade is back and still on its mission to keep Haruhi Suzumiya — a high school student who unknowingly has the power to destroy the world — happy.

In this sequel to “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” Kyon and the rest of the brigade (whose name stands for Save the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya) members go along with Haruhi as she takes on the task of making a movie for their school’s cultural festival.

But this isn’t just any movie. For one, there is no script. Haruhi claims the script is in her head and there’s no need to write it down — making the rest of the brigade uneasy as they have no clue what the movie is about or what will happen. There is also the fact that with Haruhi’s ability to change the world, the line between their fictional movie and the real world becomes blurred. Strange things begin to happen around them.

Told through the eyes of Kyon, a boy in Haruhi’s grade, “Sigh” contains the same sarcastic and sardonic commentary as “Melancholy” and it’s hard not to laugh out loud at some of the things that go through Kyon’s head.

When I read and recommended “Melancholy,” I said that I was eagerly awaiting the release of the second book in the series. I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed. The story is light, humorous, and it reminds us to not take things so seriously and that you’re never too old to pretend. After I finished reading “Sigh,” I had the urge to start filming a movie of my own.

I’ve always been a fan of book series and I am happy to have found a new one to follow. Having read books one and two, I would say that the Haruhi Suzumiya series is off to a promising start and I am once again eagerly awaiting the release of the next one, “The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya.”

“Silk Umbrellas”
By Carolyn Marsden
Candlewick Press, 2004

Eleven-year-old Noi loves colors.

She and her sister Ting love watching their grandmother paint silk umbrellas in the jungles of Thailand.

But at age 15, Ting is out of school and sent to work in a factory to assemble radios and earn money for the family.

Noi, who is approaching the end of her formal education because her family cannot afford to continue sending her to school, is terrified that she will be sent to the factory once she is done with grade school. She wants to earn money for the family by painting umbrellas and selling them at the market like her grandmother. Noi gets the opportunity to do so when her grandmother is no longer able to paint. However, at the tender age of 11, she fears her designs aren’t good enough and won’t sell.

Noi watches her family struggle to make ends meet and she learns about what it means to make sacrifices.

She learns that there are times when what you want to do and what you need to do are in sync. And sometimes, they’re not. It’s just a way of life.

What I really liked about “Umbrellas” is its message about how you can make a meaningful contribution — whether it’s to your family or community — at any age. This is a very important message for children, especially during today’s economy.

I also think it’s important for children to appreciate the sacrifices that are made for simple things such as a roof over their heads and food on their table. In a society where it’s easy to be wasteful, children need to learn about the hard work that goes into keeping them happy and healthy, and “Umbrellas” does just that.

“Indie Girl”
By Kavita Daswani
Simon Pulse, 2007

For Indira Konkipuddi, fashion isn’t just about shopping or putting together the perfect outfit.

For Indira, or Indie, fashion is a way of life and it’s her dream to become a fashion reporter.

At age 15, the young Indian girl from the suburbs of Los Angeles has her heart set on a summer internship at Celebrity Style, a national fashion magazine. In an effort to increase her chances of landing the position, Indie begins babysitting for Aaralyn Taylor, the magazine’s publisher.

Soon, Indie finds herself looking after a toddler in the middle of his terrible twos and no closer to getting the internship. After learning that Celebrity Style is in trouble, she helps the magazine get a scoop on two major stories. She doesn’t even get a thank you, and Indie begins to realize that Aaralyn doesn’t see Indie as anything more than a hired help. And it may always be that way.

Fashion has never been a big point of interest for me, but I admired Indie’s passion for it. She lives and breathes fashion. Her determination to get her foot in the door is incredible and something to look up to.

Indie faces many obstacles: Aaralyn’s cold disinterest, her father’s disapproval, and the fact that her dark hair and skin have her at a disadvantage. In the fashion world, light skin and blonde hair rules. But she doesn’t give up easily like many would. Indie perseveres and pushes through the bad in hopes for the good.

If I were in her situation, I cannot honestly say I would do the same.

Indie is a young and strong protagonist. Her certainty that she is perfect for the internship is no different from the naïve arrogance of most teenagers, but she comes by it honestly without that irritating sense of entitlement that many teens have. ♦

Samantha Pak can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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