Red Thread Sisters is a middle grade book that will definitely pull at your heartstrings.
Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock follows Wen, a Chinese orphan adopted by a family in America. Wen’s new life in America is drastically different than the life in her orphanage and she struggles to adjust to her new life. Then, Wen discovers that her best friend from China, Shu Ling will not be adoptable in a few weeks due to laws in China. If Wen does not find a family for Shu Ling, and quick, then Shu Ling’s hopes of finding a family and Wen’s hopes to reunite with her best friend will be lost forever.
I picked up Red Thread Sisters on a whim at my library’s local book sale last summer. With an interesting plot, diverse characters, and middle grade status, it seemed like a book that would have a good message and lots of heart. After finishing this book, I can say that my instincts were correct. Red Thread Sisters possesses a solid story line and great insight on adopting a child from a different country.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the author’s personal connection to the topic. In the author’s note, Carol Antoinette Peacock explains that she adopted her daughters from China and wanted to write a novel that accurately captured the adoption process and adapting to life in America. As a result, Peacock managed to inform readers of the challenges and heartbreak of children adopted from China, but also delivered an authentic and interesting story line. Furthermore, Peacock’s provided very detailed descriptions of life in the orphanage that I could picture in my head. Even though readers may come in with their ideas of what it looks like, it’s very heartbreaking and eye-opening to see what daily life is like for the children who live there.
Another aspect that I enjoyed about Red Thread Sisters was Wen’s character development. Wen was a complex and well-developed character clearly impacted by her life at the orphanage. At first, Wen is completely rigid and only wants to please her family in order not to be sent back to the orphanage. When Wen arrives in America, she is completely overwhelmed by the large houses, schools, and choices in clothing that she often exhibits socially awkward behavior. Wen authentically dealt with the new experiences that she faced. I also appreciated how the author developed Wen’s relationship with a new friend at school and a new sister. Since Wen’s best friend, who she considered a sister, still lives at the orphanage, Wen feels guilty and struggles to form new relationships. Nothing came extremely easy for Wen which resulted in a very character-driven book.
I also appreciated how the author incorporated Shing-Lu’s story. While it was heartbreaking, it really opened my eyes to a lot of issues in the adoption system. Shing-Lu is an older orphan with a physical disability which means she is often not featured on adoption websites along with thousands of other children deemed “unadoptable.” Even when Shing-Lu is featured on a website, the description isn’t incredibly detailed and fails to really humanize her. The book also informs readers of many laws without descriptions that would confuse young readers. Once Shing-Lu reached a certain age, she was legally considered “unadoptable” and would be removed from the orphanage completely. When Wen’s brother was born, she was sent to the orphanage when her family moved to the city with stricter birthing laws. I think reading this book will reveal a new point of view to readers and encourage them to advocate for other children like Wen does for Shing-Lu.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with Red Thread Sisters and definitely would recommend it to readers looking for an authentic book featuring diverse characters and a perspective on both American and Chinese cultures. This book made me smile, broke my heart, and made me want to learn more. I give Red Thread Sisters five out of five stars.