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The Lichee Tree

Last updated Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author: Ching Yeung Russell
Illustrator: Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang
Date of Publication: 1997
ISBN: 1563976293
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: May 2008

Synopsis: From Booklist: In a sequel to First Apple (1994) and Water Ghost (1995), 10-year-old Ying, who lives with her grandmother, uncle, and cousins, faces new challenges. The lichee tree planted for her as a symbol of hope when she was small is ready to bear fruit. She dreams of selling the fruit and traveling to distant Canton, a place she imagines to be full of exotic sights and people. But when a greedy landowner wants to make her older cousin his concubine and destroy Ying's family, the tree takes on a different significance. This story about a girl's coming-of-age amid family secrecy and the social turmoil of China in the 1940s is both realistic and lyrical. Its characters are beautifully realized, and in spite of their distant backdrop, they have a universal appeal.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What does the title mean?
•  Have you ever eaten a lichee?
•  Do you know what a lichee looks like? Do you know what a lichee tree looks like? What kind of trees are in your neighborhood?
•  Who do you think is on the cover?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where do you think this story is taking place?
•  Who are the kwailos?
•  Do you or other kids in your family have chores at home? What kind of chores do you have?
•  Is there someplace you would like to visit? What interests you about it? What kinds of things are there?
•  Have you ever been to a wedding? Do you have older cousins or siblings who are dating or married?
•  Have you ever known a teacher to live at school?
•  Do you know what "dormitory" means? Do you know where any of your teachers live?
•  Have you ever seen any of you teachers away from school (like out shopping or at a park)?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw your favorite fruit growing on a tree or bush.
•  Bring ahead option: bring old colorful magazines or wrapping paper. Make paper beads with the instructions provided. You will need pencils, string, glue stick, and scissors.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!