I don’t typically review children’s books but when I read the summary for Ming’s Christmas Wishes paired with that STUNNING book cover, there was no way I could refuse. From the heartwarming story to the beautiful illustrations I truly enjoyed this book. It was a lovely addition to my holiday reading this year!
Ming’s Christmas Wishes by Susan L. Gong
Ming wishes for three things at Christmas. First, to sing in the school Christmas choir. Second, to have a Christmas tree like the one in the department store window. And third, to feel she belongs somewhere.
As a daughter of immigrants in 1930s California, Ming is often treated differently than other children at school. She’s pointedly not invited to sing in the Christmas choir. At home, when Ming lobbies her parents for a Christmas tree, her mother scolds her for trying to be American. Ming doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere: she’s not quite American enough at school, not quite Chinese enough at home.
Seeing his daughter’s unhappiness, Pop takes her into the mountains to visit a wise old friend. Always happy for an adventure with her kind father, Ming hopes to persuade Pop to bring home a mountain pine to be their Christmas tree. But he has something else in mind, something that will help Ming draw strength from nature, from their Chinese heritage, and from deep and enduring family ties.
The heart of this story is about Ming and her struggle with her identity. She’s Chinese but lives in America, and she feels like she’s not accepted by either or how to be enough for both cultures. I instantly felt connected to Ming because I’ve struggled with my identity my entire life so I could relate to her easily.
After being told she couldn’t sing with her classmates in the choir performance (thanks to her racist teacher) Ming heads home, but not before spotting a Christmas tree. With all the pretty lights Ming desperately wants one of her own. When she expresses this wish to her parents her mother immediately refuses by telling her that it’s not a Chinese tradition.
Heartbroken, Ming’s father steps in and tells her that she can spend the following day with him. I adored Ming’s relationship with her father but I do wish we got more time between Ming and her mother because I would have loved to see more of a closure between the two at the end.
Ming’s father takes her to see an old friend where Ming gets to learn more about her Chinese and family heritage. The illustrations when the story reaches this point are stunning. The artist captured the author’s words beautifully and even tell a story of their own. It made learning more about Ming’s heritage fun and unique. I think children as well as adults will enjoy this aspect of the book.
The story wraps up with Ming learning how she can bring both of her identities of being Chinese and American into one to celebrate Christmas. The ending was touching and sweet. Like I said, I do wish we got more closure with Ming’s mother but for this being a children’s book it’s not a big negative.
Overall, I enjoyed Ming’s Christmas Wishes. I think Susan L. Gong did a wonderful job writing a story about Asian culture and immigration life in the 1930s. If you’re looking for a book to add to your own holiday reading list then I definitely recommend checking this one out.
I would like to thank Shadow Mountain for sending me a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.