Flying the Dragon book cover image

Flying the Dragon

  • 1695

By: Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Family ties connect us like string to a kite.

American-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle's family living in the United States. Skye and Hiroshi's lives are thrown together when Hiroshi's family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), suddenly moves to the U.S. Now Skye doesn't know who she is anymore: at school she's suddenly too Japanese, but at home she's not Japanese enough. Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye's intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi's expertise, and Skye's growing interest in, kite making and competitive rokkaku kite flying.

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Natalie Dias Lorenzi, author

Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a teacher, specializing in English as a Second Language. She has taught in Japan and Italy and now teaches is a Washington, DC-area school where 85% of the students are immigrants. She also writes curriculum guides to new books for writers and publishers. Flying the Dragon is her first novel.

Read more about Natalie.

Awards & Honors:

  • IndieBound Kids' Summer Next List 2012
  • NY Public Library's - 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • CCBC Choices 2013
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
  • IRA Children's and Young Adult Book Awards, Intermediate Fiction Honor Book

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

When her cousin unexpectedly moves from Japan to Virginia, a Japanese-American girl finds their cultural differences embarrassing until kite fighting unites them.

Skye's Japanese father has not seen his family since marrying her American mother and moving to Virginia. Skye knows some Japanese, but she's an American kid, obsessed with soccer. Her Japanese cousin Hiroshi speaks some English, but he's thoroughly Japanese and loves making and flying kites with his beloved grandfather. Everything changes when Hiroshi and his family relocate near Skye's family for Grandfather's cancer treatment. Skye's parents enroll her in Japanese classes, jeopardizing her dream to play on the All-Star soccer team. Hiroshi, meanwhile, has lost his chance to compete in his town's annual rokkaku kite battle. As Skye struggles with Japanese and Hiroshi struggles with English, both feel angry and frustrated. Ashamed because Hiroshi's different, Skye fails to help him acclimate to fifth grade, where he feels like an alien. Hiroshi resents sharing Grandfather with Skye, until Grandfather's health fails, and the cousins find common ground. Skye and Hiroshi's American and Japanese perspectives emerge gradually through alternating chapters, while their grandfather functions as a pivotal character whose wisdom and legacy binds them. Details of Japanese language, culture and kite fighting enhance the diversity theme.

A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family.

Publishers Weekly

Skye's family hasn't spoken to her Japanese relatives for as long as she can remember, but her grandfather's illness brings him, Skye's cousin Hiroshi, and his parents to Virginia while Grandfather receives cancer treatments. Now, instead of joining the All-Star summer soccer team, Skye is expected to attend Saturday Japanese school and look out for Hiroshi. Hiroshi is equally resentful that he's missing his first rokkaku kite battle in Japan, a shared activity with Grandfather, a rokkaku champion and master kite-builder. In short, third-person chapters that alternate between the two fifth graders, debut novelist Lorenzi offers an emphathetic and quietly affecting fish-out-of-water story, with both children struggling with disappointments, prejudice, language difficulties, and being caught between cultures. (Worried about spreading germs, Hiroshi wears a paper mask to school, mortifying his cousin; Skye, meanwhile, is overwhelmed by Japanese number systems: "[T]here was another set of numbers for birds and rabbits?") As Grandfather's health declines, the reluctant friendship between Skye and Hiroshi develops naturally and with gentle humor, as they find commonalities and a shared love for rokkaku.

School Library Journal

Hiroshi's grandfather is ill and needs treatment found only in the United States, and so the family is uprooted from Japan just before the big kite competition that he and his grandfather have been working toward. Hiroshi's reluctant guide to his new life in Virginia is his cousin, Skye, who would rather play soccer than get in touch with her Japanese side. Initially at odds, she and Hiroshi find common ground in coping with their grandfather's illness and come together through the traditional art of rokkaku fighting kites. The cousins' alternating chapters capture the pain of being an outsider as Skye and Hiroshi both struggle in unfamiliar situations. Hiroshi is frustrated by his limited English and embarrassed by his childish ESL reading materials while Skye feels awkward about her all-American lunches in her Saturday Japanese classes, where everyone else brings a bento. Readers will find much to relate to in this thoughtful exploration of culture shock, a family feud, and the loss of a beloved grandparent. The prose is straightforward but evocative, using imagery such as cherry blossoms to symbolize the fleeting nature of life. Readers will rejoice in the story's triumphant ending and will come away with a surprising knowledge of rokkaku kite battles, as Lorenzi integrates Japanese language and cultural elements seamlessly into the narrative. With its broad appeal for both boys and girls, this title is a solid choice for middle grade audiences.


ISBN: 978-1-58089-434-0

ISBN: 978-1-58089-435-7

ISBN: 978-1-60734-529-9 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-449-0 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 9-12
Page count: 240
6 x 9

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