Chinese Cinderella And The Secret Dragon Society Essay

Adeline was born into a family of prosperity and privilege. In the 1940s Shanghai, Chinese Cinderella or CC for short is sheltered from the harsh brutalities of the Japanese invasion in China. But after enduring abuse in the hands of her stepmother, CC is cast out of her home and seeks refuge at a martial arts academy where she improves her athletic skills and health. There, under the guidance of Grandma Wu and a troop of orphaned acrobats she is introduced to the exciting world of espionage as part of the Chinese assistance movement. CC and her new comrades accept to accomplish a daring mission to rescue a crew of American airmen, they prove that true bravery knows no age barrier. This mission wouldn't cost just few lives but many in return for revenge. As the American Jetfighters crash into the ocean an innumerable amount of Japanese paratroopers armed with bayonets and machine guns come to investigate. In conclusion many men, women and children were annihilated, there bodies piled on Nan Tian Beach. As a cause of this mission Adeline's close relatives were slaughtered and left to rot in the sun.
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Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society is a blend of martial arts and historical fiction.

The review of this Book prepared by Molica

Chapter Analysis of Chinese Cinderella And The Secret Dragon Society

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book War/Revolt/Disaster on civilians    -   YesConflict:    -   War, WW II

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Age:    -   a kid Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Chinese


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   8 () Asia/Pacific    -   Yes Forest?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Chinese Cinderella And The Secret Dragon Society

Adeline Yen Mah BooksNote: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society by Adeline Yen Mah

In Chinese Cinderella: the True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter, Adeline Yen Mah told the story of her life growing up in Shanghai, China during the 1940s as the daughter of a prosperous father and a cruel stepmother. In Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society, she has taken the same story and turned it into an exciting fantasy novel.

Ye Xian, nicknamed Chinese Cinderella or CC, is 12 when her father throws her out of the house for being disrespectful to her stepmother. She befriends three boys who live with their kung fu teacher, Grandma Wu, at the Martial Arts Academy. David is half American, half Chinese and a Christian; Sam is half German, half Chinese and Jewish; Marat is half Russian, Japanese and Muslim; Grandma Wu is Chinese and a Buddhist. The boys are orphans, very proficient in kung fu, and belong to The Dragon Society, a branch of the Shaolin Association of Wandering Knights, dedicated to helping the oppressed and downtrodden.

Pretty soon, CC has also joined them and becomes quite skillful at kung fu and wishes to join the society. China has been occupied by the Japanese since 1937 and it is now 1942. One night, Grandma Wu and her son, Master Wu, gather the children together and explain a secret plan to help American flyers who are planning to bomb Japan. They soon travel to southeast China, but the plan goes awry and the group end up rescuing 5 Americans who crash land on the Chinese island of Nan Tian. Now, they must get the badly injured Americans to mainland China where they can get medical help, but the sea around the island are patrolled by Japanese soldiers.

They finally do manage to board a sail boat called a Junk, but soon they are pursued by a Japanese gunboat. It looks like they will all be caught when the breeze dies down and the Junk comes to a standstill. But they are saved by Ling Ling, a dolphin that had been befriended and trained by David and her dolphin cousin Bumby.

Back in Shanghai, CC, whose family thinks she has been living with her beloved Big Aunt, is advised to move back home because her stepmother is threatening to accuse her aunt of kidnapping. But living at home doesn’t last long. When CC receives a package from Big Aunt, who has been temporarily living on Nan Tian Island, which incriminates both of them in the rescue of the Americans, her stepmother implies she is going to permanently end CC relationship with her aunt.

CC runs away to Grandma Wu, but they receive very bad news about a violent Japanese attack in Nan Tian, including the death of Big Aunt. CC naturally suspects her stepmother of having a hand in this unusually cruel behavior. At the same time, she comes up with a plan to rescue other Americans being held prisoner by the Japanese at Bridge House in Shanghai, the same prison Marat’s older brother is a prisoner.  Can yet another exciting escape succeed?

I thought this was a very interesting tense story, full of adventure, though sometimes the writing was a little too pedantic. Nevertheless, Yen Mah writes compassionately about these children who are considered to be outcasts by society. The tone of the whole story is one of hope and resourcefulness even in the face of brutality, oppression and vindictiveness – by the Japanese occupiers and for CC, also by her stepmother.  In the face of all that, friendship, overcoming, and even acceptance become important themes throughout the story.

Through CC’s initiation into The Dragon Society, Yen Mah is able to weave extensive explanations about important Chinese culture and beliefs into the story. At the heart of The Secret Dragon Society is the philosophy of Taoism, including the life force Qi (pronounced Chee), the Yi Jing (or I Ching), the concepts of yin yang, the principles of strength, power and control embedded in kung fu and the Chinese Zodiac. Sometimes this gets complicated. For instance, when CC is told to consult the Yi Jing by casting the yarrow sticks before joining the society, I was totally lost. I found the writing confusing here, though it did peak my interest in the Yi Jing and I will probably get more information on it. I am afraid younger readers might just skip over these parts, but hopefully not be discouraged from finishing CCs story.

The central story, the rescue of the Americans, is based on a true event. In April 1942, Jimmy Doolittle actually did lead a bombing raid on Japan, but the outcome was very different than the one in Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society.

This book is a historical novel and so there is a Historical Note at the end of the book, which I would recommend reading first. It gives a brief history of the author’s family and the Japanese occupation of China and the true events surrounding the bombing of Japan and its cruel aftermath unleashed by the Japanese against the Chinese. In that way, the reader knows what is factual and what has been fabricated by the author.

Despite some of the problems with this novel, I would still highly recommend it. Personally, I think it would be more beneficial for this novel to be read under the guidance of a teacher, given some of the content. There is an extensive teaching guide available on Adeline Yen Mah’s website that would be very useful for that. And it might be interesting to read this fantasy novel in tandem with its biographical counterpart, Chinese Cinderella: the True Story of an Unwanted Daughter.

This book is recommended for readers age 10-14.
This book was purchased for my personal library.

This is book 2 of my East and SouthEast Asia Challenge hosted by Violet Crush
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