I have been meaning to read Front Desk by Kelly Yang for quite some time. I saw the book on Instagram and I’ve heard some great things about it. I’ve had it on my shelf for about a year and I guess I finally picked up this book. No I take that back. What made me pick up this book up was when I was scrolling Instagram like I normally do and the author posted a reel about a group wanting to ban her book that was made for children about a young immigrant girl. I was like “Wait what? Why?!” So that put a little fire under my behind to get me to read it!
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Synopsis: Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests. Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed. Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language? It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
Review: I really enjoyed it! It was super cute. When the author said her book was on a banned list (or a district somewhere was trying to ban it), I didn’t understand why. However, after reading it, I can think of a few reasons. I think it’s because she highlighted how unfair immigrants are being treated in this country and how discrimination is wrong. She showcased how it was for her when she came to this country.
One of my favorite quotes in this book was “‘Because life is scary sometimes, little one”‘. That’s what her piano teacher told her when she was practicing a song and it’s so true. Life is scary and we shouldn’t hide that fact from kids. It’s important for them to understand because there are times in life where we will be scared! She described the hard time immigrants have economically, especially when brand new to this country. Her friend Lupe told her about a “rollercoaster” that a lot of people (poor people) are on and how it can be hard to get off of it when you don’t have a hand up (not a hand out…immigrants are not lazy). Mia noticed, after Lupe pointed this out, that her parents went from one bad job to another. Even the people they helped out struggled. These are people who were once engineers or doctors in their home country and had to take jobs in restaurants or as maids and were treated very poorly by their bosses. They were taken advantage of, which no one likes!
People looked down on her mother because she couldn’t speak English correctly. One of the weeklies at their hotel, Henry, was falsely accused of stealing and whenever bad things happened, he was a suspect just because he was black. The cops thought he was up to no good. The hotel’s owner assumed all Black people were bad people. It wasn’t fair! Mia’s dad even told Mr. Yao, “…we can’t judge someone based on their skin color. It isn’t right. This is America” and his response to that was “If you believe that, you’re even dumber than I thought…clearly you have no idea how this country really works.” Like, that’s sad.
Mia asked the question of whether it was courage or insanity that someone was “willing to do anything, go anywhere, even into the belly of a Dumpster, to get what he wanted.” It’s the question of what are you willing to do in life? How badly do you want something?
I admired Mia. She was willing to do whatever she could to help out her friends. She didn’t think the way they were treated was fair and she was willing to do anything for it. At times, I did roll my eyes at her because well…she was a kid. She can’t change the world! But then, it just goes to show how jaded we are as adults. What can we do to change the world? How can we make a difference to even one person’s life, especially when we see the person being treated unfairly?
I gave this book 3.5/5 stars! It’s really good! Such a cute middle grade read and I will have it in my classroom library and I recommend other teachers place it in their classroom libraries as well. Also great in general for kids to read!
What middle grade book would you recommend?
Title: Front Desk
Author: Kelly Yang
Publication Date: June 25, 2019
Genre: Middle Grade
Buy it here: Bookshop.org