Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: PRAIRIE LOTUS by Linda Sue Park
Introduced by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Courtney Hague
From the development of the plot and the delineation of the characters to appropriateness of the style, PRAIRIE LOTUS by Linda Sue Park is distinguished in many ways.
Let’s start by talking about the appropriateness of the style in this book. Linda Sue Park makes it very clear that this book is in conversation with the LITTLE HOUSE books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This book is told in a similar style which is very straightforward and plot driven. Hannah, our protagonist, is trying to live a normal life as a pioneer child. She takes care of her father, performs many domestic tasks, goes to school, and dreams of being a dressmaker. The one very distinctive difference is her identity as a biracial Chinese American. The delineation of what racism toward Chinese and Chinese American people looked like in pioneer times is what really sets this book apart.
The plot also is very neatly developed. It is very clear what is happening and what may or may not happen in this book; there are minimal surprises with the exception of the assault that happens near the end of the book. I think this works exceptionally well for this style of book. It helps to highlight the setting and the themes are presented in a really clear way.
Last, we cannot talk about PRAIRIE LOTUS without talking about the characters themselves. Hannah is such a sweet young woman. She wants to find a place for herself in the world and she is willing to do what it takes to get there. Her determination both to start and finish school and to become a real dressmaker are evident throughout the book. She is stubborn and resilient.
PRAIRIE LOTUS is a welcome addition to the realm of Middle Grade historical fiction.
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About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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