When I first read the synopsis for “New From Here” by Kelly Yang, I was a little hesitant to crack open the cover. Why would I want to read a book that revolves around the pandemic when I am so tired of hearing about it!? However, I picked it up and gave it a fair chance, and I’m happy I did. “New From Here” is funny, based on the author’s true story, bursting with applicable life lessons, and full of real and relatable characters. Read this blog for my honest book review!
When the virus first appears in China, the Wei-Evans family (currently living in Hong Kong) begins to feel a little worried. They decide to pack their bags and head to their homeland (America). However, not everyone gets to go. Their father has to stay behind in order to keep his job, and Knox (the main character) has to leave his dog in Hong Kong. This novel tells the story of a mother and her three children trying to navigate pandemic-life in America while dealing with familial separation and anti-Asian hate.
Recommended Age Group?
The publisher’s recommended age group is 8-12. I agree with this recommended age.
One of the largest themes throughout this novel is racism. Even though the Wei-
Evans family is American, they are met with anti-Asian hate/prejudice because of the colour of their skin. Racism is talked about fairly heavily in this novel, and the author (through the voice of the mom character) gives amazing advice on how to combat this racism. The author is careful not to go too in-depth in regards to the racism examples, but there are a couple times when violent situations are mentioned. The reader is reminded that some Chinese people were set on fire and shot throughout the duration of the pandemic. The Black Lives Matter movement is also touched upon when Julie (the mom) tells her kids about an emergency room technician who was shot by the police in her own home. Yang mentions more anti-Asian hate examples in her Author’s Note.
While these instances can be difficult to read about, and many parents want to keep their children sheltered from this kind of news, I believe it’s important to discuss racism so that we can all learn how to combat it.
Other important themes discussed in this novel are love, helping others, familial bonds, friendship, and navigating life with ADHD. I absolutely love how the three siblings go from just being brothers and sisters to being best friends. Family is seen as a priority and the siblings learn that true success comes from helping others.
This book is classroom-approved, but due to its length, best suited for grades 5-7.
Your students will connect with the three siblings and will love hearing about their shenanigans. This book has as much humour as it does seriousness. “New From Here” will also provide ample opportunity for whole-class discussion, as it talks about the beginning stages of the virus. Not only will students be able to relate much of the character’s struggles to their own lives, they’ll also feel compelled to compare their unique experiences with those of the character’s.
I especially love that the author included a photograph of herself and her three kids as they are about to board a plane in the Hong Kong airport. Your readers will come away from this book having a larger arsenal of racism-combatting tools at their disposal. This fact alone makes this book worth reading.
As always, I recommend pre-reading any classroom read aloud to make sure you are happy with the author’s content.