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2018
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Summary
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
Trade Reviews
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-6-Mia Tang and her parents expected to work hard when they came to the United States, but they had no idea how difficult things would be. After a year or two struggling to make ends meet, they find themselves managing a motel for a cruel and exploitive owner. The work is exhausting and the problems are many, but the Tangs approach their new responsibility with determination, creativity, and compassion, making friends everywhere and sheltering a trickle of immigrants in worse straits than themselves. Ten-year-old Mia takes over the front desk, and makes it her own, while dreaming of a future as a writer. Based on Yang's own experiences as a new immigrant in the 1980s and 1990s, her novel speaks openly of hardship, poverty, assault, racism, and bullying, but keeps a light, positive tone throughout. Mia herself is an irresistible protagonist, and it is a pleasure to see both her writing and her power grow through a series of letters that she sends to remedy injustices. The hefty and satisfying dose of wish fulfillment that closes the story feels fully earned by the specificity and detailed warmth of Yang's setup. Many young readers will see themselves in Mia and her friends. -VERDICT A swiftly moving plot and a winsome protagonist make this a first purchase for any collection, especially where realistic fiction is in demand.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
*Starred Review* Set in the early 1990s in Anaheim, California, this earnest debut is partially inspired by the author's childhood. When Mia Tang's parents find a new job managing the Calivista motel, it seems like the answer to their prayers: free housing and a stable, secure job, neither of which have come easy to the recent Chinese immigrants. Fifth-grader Mia takes pride in working the front desk and becomes fast friends with the weeklies, for whom the motel is a semipermanent residence. But the motel's owner, Mr. Yao, is beyond mean he's flat out racist so Mia enters a writing contest to win their very own motel. It's the details that sing in this novel, particularly the small moments that feel like everything when you're a kid: winning (or not) the beloved classroom object, having your prized possession stolen, or being hurt by a parent's words. When Mia's mother says, You're a bicycle and the other kids are cars, meaning Mia's English will never be as good as a native speaker's, it's a crushing and lingering blow, especially for a budding writer. This book will help foster empathy for the immigrant experience for young readers, while for immigrant children, it is a much-needed and validating mirror. Though some of the events toward the end may stretch believability in an otherwise realistic novel, there is plenty to appreciate and admire. Deserving of shelf space in every classroom and library.--Barnes, Jennifer Copyright 2018 Booklist
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