The Legend of Auntie Po

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Legend of Auntie Po Book Poster Image
Sweet, funny, wise tale of queer immigrant teen in 1885 U.S.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Legend of Auntie Po depicts life in a Sierra Nevada, California, logging camp in 1885. The narrative offers an opportunity to discuss race, identity, queerness, and anti Asian prejudice.

Positive Messages

Workers doing equal work deserve equal pay. Chinese people deserve respect from their co-workers. LBGTQ people have always been a part of history.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thirteen-year-old Chinese immigrant Mei works hard in her father's kitchen. She also tells stories about Auntie Po, a giant older woman with a big blue ox. The camp relies on Chinese workers, but they are not paid at the same rate as the Scandinavian loggers. Mei's father stands up to the foreman, who is Bee's father.


A Chinese man is beaten when he visits town. Bee's brother drowns in a flume.


Mei and Bee have been friends seemingly forever, but their relationship takes a more emotional turn. They hold hands, dance together, stand close to each other in the kitchen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Legend of Auntie Po is a graphic novel that depicts life in a logging camp in 1885. Writer/illustrator Shing Yin Khor explores how stories connect people to the wisdom of the past. Teen girls develop a romantic relationship, signified by hand-holding and hugging. No swearing or substance use. As for violence, there's a beating and a drowning, both depicted at a distance.

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What's the story?

As THE LEGEND OF AUNTIE PO opens, 13-year-old Mei helps her father run the kitchen at a logging camp in the Sierra Nevada. Mei dreams of seeing the world but isn't sure how to do so, and she begins to call upon Auntie Po, a giant Chinese matriarch with a blue ox, to watch over the camp. But Auntie Po can't stop every misfortune, and Mei must deal with tragedy and heartbreak. Will she and her close friend Bee find the stories that best reflect their lives?

Is it any good?

Bad things happen to the best of people, and this sensitive graphic novel mixes folklore and history to explore issues of equality, equity, and identity. In The Legend of Auntie Po, Shing Yin Khor devises a story brimming with historical incident, and timely depictions of both bigotry and understanding. Sweet, funny, and wise, this graphic novel is touching without being maudlin, and Shing Yin Khor's watercolors beautifully capture the moods of the text. It deserves a wide audience of enthusiastic readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Legend of Auntie Po mixes Chinese mythology with North American folklore. In what way is Auntie Po like Paul Bunyan? How do elements of myth mix with other cultures?

  • The Chinese loggers receive lower pay than their White counterparts. Why were such inequities allowed to happen? Do Asian people still struggle against prejudice?

  • How does Mei show that she's becoming romantically interested in Bee? How did queer men and women in the past identify themselves to each other?

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