The Secret of the Jade Bangle (Nguyen Kids #1)

by Linda Trinh (Author) Clayton Nguyen (Illustrator)

The Secret of the Jade Bangle (Nguyen Kids #1)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: Nguyen Kids

"Engaging and empowering"--STARRED review, Nonstop Reader

A charming early chapter book series that explores Vietnamese culture and identity through the eyes of the Nguyen siblings, with elements of the supernatural, spirituality, and social justice woven in.

I, Anne Nguyen, believe in ghosts. Not the kind of ghosts that hide in dark corners and yell boo! Not scary ghosts, but family ghosts.

Organized and introspective nine-year-old Anne Nguyen misses her Grandma Nội, a lot. But even though Grandma Nội passed away, it doesn't mean she's disappeared. When Anne and her younger siblings Jacob and Liz are given gifts passed on to them by Grandma, Anne soon realizes that hers--a beautiful jade bangle--has a secret power. One that might just give her the strength to stand up to her ballet teacher, who treats her differently than her white classmates, and embrace her Vietnamese identity through cooking Grandma's recipes. No matter how difficult things get, Anne learns that the love of her ancestors is always with her.

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Kirkus Reviews

A solid chapter book laced with themes of cultural confidence and family.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--Nine-year-old Anne Nguyen is struggling with pressures within her Vietnamese family, at school, and at her beloved dance class. She feels overwhelmed by the need to do well in school, to honor her ancestors, and to succeed in ballet--something her mother dreamed of for herself. The recent death of her grandmother adds to her internal turmoil. When she's given her grandmother's jade bangle, something very special happens. Her grandmother begins to visit her and to teach her how to cook all the traditional dishes from Vietnam, something she regrets not having done with Anne's father. Through their otherwordly interactions, Anne receives guidance and support from her grandmother. When her ballet teacher begins making racist comments to her and about her in class, Anne uses her newfound strength to stand up for herself. Even her ballet rival comes to her defense. This story is a testament to standing up for yourself, standing up for your friends and family, and honoring your heritage. VERDICT This is a sweet title that handles the concepts surrounding racism as experienced by younger children in a relatable and age-appropriate way; it should be considered for all chapter book collections.--Jennifer Noonan

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Following her grandmother's death, a fourth grader isn't sure what her Vietnamese heritage means to her in Trinh's engaging debut. Anne Nguyen doesn't attend Vietnamese school or take sticky rice for lunch like her cousins do, and she's never traveled to Vietnam from her home in Winnipeg. But when Anne receives her beloved Grandma Nô.i's jade bangle, her grandmother's spirit appears, requesting traditional Vietnamese dishes for the family's ancestor-honoring altar. Since Anne's Canadian-born parents never learned to make them, Anne is tasked with learning how. Cooking gives Anne the chance to process the racist treatment she's receiving in her majority-white ballet class, where her new teacher asks where she's "really from" and criticizes her demi-plié, saying "You people are usually very flexible." Learning to make favorite dishes also helps her to feel closer to her departed grandmother and her cultural history; learn about her family's encounters with racism, including racist slurs; and affirm her own identity. An emotionally intelligent, straightforwardly told family story, it's the first installment of a series centered on Anne and her siblings. An author's note concludes; final art not seen by PW. Publishing simultaneously: The Power of the Pearl Earrings. Ages 6-9. (Oct.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Linda Trinh

LINDA TRINH is a Vietnamese Canadian author who writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She lives with her family in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

CLAYTON NGUYEN is a Vietnamese artist born in Ottawa and currently based in Toronto, Ontario.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Annick Press
Publication date
October 20, 2022
Nguyen Kids
BISAC categories
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
JUV039120 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Prejudice & Racism
JUV013070 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Siblings
Library of Congress categories
Family life
Fantasy fiction

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