8Books Review: “Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire” by Susan Tan

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is the debut novel from author Susan Tan about a spunky and spirited half-white, half-Chinese eight and half year old with grand visions for her future and astute insight into her past. Cilla is our narrator, and this is her memoir–her first step to reaching her destiny as Future Author Extraordinaire.

Now I know I’m not the target audience for Cilla Lee-Jenkins (ages 8-12 says her publisher’s website), but I did thoroughly enjoy this book. I laughed and cried along with Cilla, followed her high drama and quiet reflections on growing up, on growing up biracial, and on the potential responsibilities of big sisterhood. It’s just the right mix of Capitalized Indignation and Big Moments. Cilla’s voice is so strong throughout that you get the feeling of her talking.

I opened the book to a random page (really, honest) to give you a sense:

My mom also said that she’s sorry she’s been so tired lately. Her stomach is getting REALLY big now, and sometimes when she walks, she waddles like a duck. (Apparently, this is an opinion I should keep to myself. I know this because I didn’t, and then I got in trouble, and then my dad laughed and he got in trouble.)

Tan doesn’t shy from exploring issues of identity either, even from the perspective of an eight year old — like how Cilla’s experiences with her Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins is so different from with her Nai Nai and Ye Ye; about being made fun of for liking to eat snails; about true friendship.

I can only imagine this is a great book to read aloud with someone. For children ages 8-12 and well beyond.

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About Lily

East Coast Chinese American. I like thick-skinned dumplings and hard-covered books.
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