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THE KITE RIDER by Geraldine McCaughrean Kirkus Star

THE KITE RIDER

By Geraldine McCaughrean

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: June 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-623874-9
Publisher: HarperCollins

An ancient—and terrifying—maritime practice becomes the impetus for a cracking good adventure story set in 13th-century China, after the Mongol conquest. Haoyou’s sailor father dies when sent up on a hatch cover, kite-style, to “test the wind,” and he, his beautiful mother, and his baby sister are left in the care of his rapacious and dishonest Great-uncle Bo. With the help of his world-weary cousin Mipeng, a young widow who has been forced into the role of medium, Haoyou manages to avoid the worst of his great-uncle’s schemes for himself and his mother, but real escape comes only when he comes to the attention of the charismatic owner of a circus. The Great Miao has heard of the practice of testing the wind, has seen Haoyou himself lofted into the air, and has determined that a kite-rider will be the central act of a show he intends to play before the conqueror Kublai Khan himself. McCaughrean (Roman Myths, 2001, etc.) takes her characters on a dizzying adventure across China even as she takes Haoyou on an inner journey to confront his deeply-held beliefs and prejudices. Haoyou and, to a lesser extent, Mipeng and the Great Miao all struggle with the accepted Confucian teaching that obedience to one’s elders must be observed at all costs. While the protagonists’ decisions regarding obedience and individualism may not have been the norm at the time, they are not out of place for this moment of great cultural upheaval, and their development is sensitively and at times wryly charted. Haoyou’s aerial ecstasy springs vividly off the page for some truly thrilling moments as he soars on his kite while Great-uncle Bo provides a low-humor counterpoint. An author’s note follows to contextualize the 13th-century and to explain the inspiration for Haoyou’s unusual vocation. Fast-paced and densely plotted, absorbing, and at times even hilarious. (Fiction. 11-15)