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Updated: September 3, 2013 12:31 IST

Being yourself

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Twelve-year old Ching Yeung Russel has to leave her grandmother in China to reunite with her family in Hong Kong. Will she cope without her beloved grandma? Will she learn the ways of Hong Kong?

Do you know what it’s like to move to a new city and be unfamiliar with the language, people and their way of life? In Bungee Cord Hair by Ching Yeung Russell, the narrator, a 12-year-old girl, leaves mainland China on an emergency visit to see her sick mother in Hong Kong. As she learns the truth about her mother’s condition, she struggles to learn English, refine her accent and even change her hairstyle!

Written in free verse, the book chronicles the little girl’s transformation in short, easy-to-read poems.

The girl leaves behind her beloved Ah Pau, grandmother, to live with her parents and three siblings in a small apartment in Honk Kong. She is forced to change the way she looks and dresses in order to look more like a ‘Hong Kong girl’.

Settling down?

However, when the time comes for her to get a perm, things don’t go as planned. The narrator’s mother takes her to a hairdresser to change her hairstyle. The new perm makes the narrator’s hair look like bungee cord and this really upsets her. Try as she might, she is unable to wash off the perm and is left with tightly curled hair instead of her beautiful poker straight hair.

The narrator dreams of becoming a writer and finds it difficult to pursue her ambition in Hong Kong when her family doesn’t have enough money to send her to school. Uncle Three, the head of her father’s family, finds her a job in a glove factory so that she can support her family. But the narrator is adamant to attend school and grows a thick skin in order to gain admission to a school that rejects her. But, when a secretly entered story in a writing competition is published in the local newspaper, the narrator’s fortunes change. But, she still must confront her fears when her classmates mock her accent and she misses her grandmother. Does the young girl manage to overcome the confusion over her identity and become proud of who she is? And, does she ever meet her Ah Pau again? The young girl’s narration will keep you hooked till the end.

Bungee Cord Hair is a book for those who being themselves at school or home has not always been easy. The engaging writing is complimented by striking illustrations that bring the poems alive. While some of the poems will bring a lump to your throat, others will bring a smile to your face with their wry humour. The book is the winner of the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2012.

Bungee Cord Hair by Ching Yeung Russell, Scholastic, Rs. 175

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