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Circle of Cranes / by Annette LeBox

Title: Circle of Cranes
Author: Annette LeBox
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3443-2
Year: 2012

Concepts: human resources, poverty, scarcity, jobs, working conditions, wages

Review: Orphaned almost as long as she could remember, thirteen-year old Suyin felt like she never really had a home in her rural Chinese village, especially since she had lived with several different aunties who seemed to pass her along from one household to the next. Hence Suyin found it hard to stifle a sense of bitterness when the villagers chose to give her up to Snakehead Lao, a human smuggler, so that she could work in New York City and send a lot of money back home.

Compounding the bitterness, Suyin quickly discovered the Lao had woven a clever web of lies. The promised cruise ship across the ocean proved to be a dilapidated, overcrowded, rat-infested barge. The rewarding factory job in Gold Mountain proved to entail exploitative work in an unregulated sweatshop for virtually no pay. Suyin would need to rely on her unique set of talents, which included an uncanny knack for languages and ties to the mystical Crane Sisterhood, to survive these dangerous conditions and find a way to help those she loved most.

This novel carefully weaves together elements from an old Japanese folk tale, "The Crane Wife," with a contemporary story based on the actual experiences of undocumented workers smuggled into North America to work in garment sweatshops. The narrative is loaded with economics lessons related to the low pay and poor working conditions of immigrant workers, as well as the status of girls in a minority Chinese sub-population. It should interest a wide readership seeking interesting characters, substantive content, and a touch of folklore.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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