Delighted to see this excellent review of The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball - in VOYA magazine, the leading journal for young adult librarians. It reaches over 7500 major library systems and school districts nationwide. The word is getting out!
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Yang, Dori Jones. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball. SparkPress, 2017. 256p. $12.95 Trade pb. 978-1-943006-32-8.
In the 1870s, the emperor of China sent 120 boys to the U.S. in hopes of developing a cadre of future leaders who would immerse themselves in their dynamic host country and then return, bringing the energy and know-how of American industrial technology back to their highly traditional homeland. Through a pair of fictional brothers, the author provides insight into this little-known historical event. Twelve-year-old Woo Ka-Leong (his name is Americanized as Leon) and fifteen-year-old Woo Ka-Sun (Carson) are both sent to live with a middle-class, New England family. The story is told from the viewpoint of the optimistic and adaptable younger brother, Leon, who soon becomes proficient in English and comfortable with American culture and cuisine. He also becomes an enthusiastic baseball player and a fan of steam engines and railroads. Carson, however, clings single-mindedly to his mastery of classical Chinese poetry and calligraphy while scorning all things American. On his rare ventures into wider American society, notably on a group visit to the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the older brother's erratic behavior causes widespread dismay. The two boys represent opposite poles of the range of results likely to arise from cross-cultural experiences.
This well-written historical novel is filled with intriguing details about Chinese and American customs and lifestyles of the era. Through Leon's expectations and his confrontations with alien customs, the reader learns about both pre-modern Chinese and Victorian-era American societies and technologies. The novel features several appendices, including a short bibliography, questions for discussion, and trivia for readers who will want to learn more. The boys’ experiences are both timely and timeless in Yang’s deft hands.—Walter Hogan.