Parents' Guide to

Girl Giant and the Monkey King

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Middle school girl uses trickster god's help in fun fantasy.

Book Van Hoang Fantasy 2020
Girl Giant and the Monkey King Poster Image

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This playful and captivating fantasy adventure features a brave and kind Vietnamese American girl who hides an incredible power. Girl Giant and the Monkey King has a lot of fun with the Monkey King legend and the characteristic humor, mischievousness, and uncertainty surrounding him. It is a joy romping back and forth from school to the Heavens and other magical locations, like through the fabled waterfall where the Monkey King and other monkeys have made their idyllic home. Thom meets various gods, half-gods, demons, and magical creatures. Back at school and at home, she has to deal with an increasingly intrusive Monkey King and his whimsical antics. The adventure part of this book is great, paced well and with little pieces of mystery strewn about. Who really is the boy next door, Kha? Who is Thom's father? Should the Monkey King be trusted?

But this book is also about family, what real friendship is, and what it can be like to be an Asian American kid. The foundation of Thom and her mother's relationship is strong, loving, and independent from the dominant White and male world. The Monkey King points out how similar he is to Thom by suggesting that while she constantly feels like an outsider because of her Asianness, but also doesn't feel Asian enough, he has always likewise never been fully god or fully demon and never fully accepted by either group. The organic depictions and open engagement with various elements of Asian American and specifically Vietnamese American life, including cultural traditions, histories, and mythologies, are all woven into the fabric of the story, rather than layered on or presented as a token of difference.

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