|The 21st Annual Book Report Competition
for Secondary School Students
The Champion of English Senior Section
Name of Award Student : Leung Wai Ting, Amy
Name of School : Heep Yunn School
Title of Book Read : Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society
Author : Adeline Yen Mah
Publisher : Puffin
As a companion to the internationally acclaimed book of Chinese Cinderella, Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society is a compelling blend of martial arts adventure, friendships and historical fiction set in the background of China during the Second World War.
In the story, Adeline shares Chinese Cinderella’s encounters with the Secret Dragon Society after being kicked out of home by her parents at the time when Shanghai was under the control of the Japanese. Chinese Cinderella, or CC for short, took refugee with her benefactor, Grandma Wu, in her martial arts academy where CC replenished her spirit while befriended by three orphaned boy acrobats and being taught Kung Fu. It was when CC embarked on a secret espionage against the Japanese that she finally sought her own destiny and a family where she truly belonged.
This novel is a real winner. It consists of every component that a good novel should have. An extraordinary story, history, global issues and morality are all beautifully written in this book. Once you turn over the cover and enter Adeline’s world, the magical journey begins.
There are numerous aspects of this book that are worthy of praise. For instance, the way Adeline presents and describes the characters enables readers to feel that they have known the characters for long. When I read about Niang, CC’s stepmother, I gritted my teeth, dying to slap her face and make her grove at CC’s feet. A surge of sympathy and despair overwhelmed me when I read through the plights of CC as her father remained silent when Niang dug her sharp and pointed nails into CC’s neck. Immense grief filled my whole being as CC uttered ‘Big Aunt is dead.’ I felt CC’s anguish as if it was my own. Adeline’s descriptions are so natural but impressive that I felt the characters had climbed out from the pages and talked with facial expressions as I read from line to line.
Adeline’s story also enriched me with knowledge and increased my exposure to different human issues. My interest towards martial arts was aroused by the lessons given by Grandma Wu. The diligent way that CC pursued excellence in martial arts inspired me. As a Chinese, it was the first time that I felt ashamed of my superficial understanding of Chinese martial arts. It wasn’t until I read Adeline’s story that I finally realized Kung Fu wasn’t solely renowned for its physical strength, but also the wise theories (Tao) that underlie its excellence. Apart from marveling at the superb physical condition CC gradually developed, I was also impressed by the attitude towards life Grandma Wu cultivated in CC. The fundamental of Kung Fu lies in Tao and Qi, righting the wrongs and combating injustice while abiding by its moral standards. Kung Fu objects pursuing revenge for hatred is not erased by hatred. I wondered how peaceful our world would be if every country abides by the moral standards of Kung Fu and return good for every evil. Perhaps that’s how we can be one big family under the same big sky.
Besides developing a passion for martial arts, I have also acquired a deeper understanding of Chinese history. This story took place in China during the Second World War. Reading Adeline’s story is akin to having a big peep at the course of Chinese history in the first half of the nineteenth century because Adeline includes numerous historical facts into the story of her struggles. I found myself having a clear and in-depth picture of what happened during the Second World War since Adeline describes historical events from a commoner’s point of view. Those who fancy history would definitely fall in love with this book because it is, I would say, an extraordinary blend of Chinese history textbook and an adventurous novel.
Another thing I fancied very much in this book is the book cover. No doubt, the soul of a book lies in its content and theoretically, appearance doesn’t count, or it shouldn’t count. But an eye-catching book cover does play a part in arousing readers’ interest in the book. Those dragons on the greenish-blue background, together with the pictures of bombing planes give readers a mysterious feeling and incentive to go on finding out the relationship between the dragons and the warlike conflict. Seeing the gleam of Adeline’s eyes from her blurred black and white picture on the cover, you can sense the longing for parents’ love deep inside her heart. The blurred photo of Adeline and the greenish-blue dragons combine/bond in a way that gives comfort and consolation. It‘s as if the cover tells what the author couldn’t describe with words.
I am also grateful for the moral lessons this book gave me. There are a lot of lines about Taoism and each word went straight to my heart and lingered there.
CC’s life was partly composed of fear. At the Secret Dragon Society she was taught that fearing the worst for her is actually worse than the worst that can happen to her. As I mulled over this saying, I gradually understand that fear is endless and formless, whereas even the worst outcome has an ending. For me, worries form a large part of my growing up, and to withstand life’s bumps and spills I do have to learn to let go of worries and anguish at appropriate times. People stress that we have to look back and move forth at the same time. But I believe that in some occasions solely moving forth will do. Sticking ourselves to worrying about the past is not a right attitude for people in the twenty first century.
Another lesson I learnt is that misery loves company. This accounts for Niang’s repeated attempts to add miseries to CC’s life. This may as well explains that the widespread sadness around the globe is due to the unconscious and secret motive of human nature---seek companion for misery.
What we should ponder over most is hatred is not erased by hatred. If we spend the rest of our life pursuing revenge on our enemies, which is what CC intended to do before Secret Dragon Society appeared in her life, a vicious circle will be created in which everyone live out of hatred. Surely this is not what you and I want.
‘Right makes might.’ Grandma Wu said. Right makes might? At first sight I doubted this saying, which appears to be quite old-fashioned, idealistic and impractical. Thinking of the dog eat dog business world, thinking of the ruthless competitions which exist everywhere in modern societies, even at schools. A thought had been implanted deeply in me; I don’t know since when and how, which is that to be rightful means to lose and be cheated. But somehow I do find inspirations from this saying. The angel on one of my shoulders shouted, ‘Right is right. Wrong is wrong.’ Would it be more realistic to say that if you stick to the rightful side and strive till the end, together with smart, intelligence and luck, might may be brought to you?
CC relished every bite of her friendship with the three orphaned boys at Secret Dragon Society, and so do I. As I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs, students often compete with one another in different fields, causing hatred and jealousy between one another. True and sincere friendship can scarcely be established under such circumstances. I have been longing for friends like David, Marat and Sam. Be ready for sacrifices, be considerate for one another, and truly understand one another in great depth... are what real friends can do for one another. Until when can I find such pure friendships? Or will I ever be able to establish one?
The ‘cold’ relationship between CC and her father is actually common in Hong Kong. We have a rampant problem of generation gap and there seems to be a concrete wall blocking the way for parents and kids to express themselves truly to one another. I understand the awkward and tongue-tied situations CC faced when with her dad since I have been in such uneasy moments before. It is a relief when CC finally thought of pouring out her truest explanation and conveying her feelings to her dad in a letter. This was a very first step of breaking the ice between them and I hope that it wasn’t her only step. Well it wouldn’t be since I am pretty certain that CC can handle this relationship very well after undergoing the most intense course given by the Secret Dragon Society.
With a view to express my feelings further, I composed the following poem.
The quest for true love in the depth of CC’s heart,
But her stepmother’s coldness tears her heart apart.
The serene happiness of a child and parents together
is a pleasure that she can’t taste forever.
No mummy’s hugs as the north winds blow chill,
No daddy’s greetings during the season’s festive thrill.
May all cold hearts and stubborn minds disappear?
So every child can grow with love, but not sorrow and fear.
‘Home Sweet Home’ is what we used to hear,
But what if home turns bitter and creates countless fear?
Do you remain an underdog living under injustice?
Or you strive till the end fighting for justice?
CC chooses the latter and guides the course of her own future,
Righting the wrongs and relishing eye-opening adventures.
Day after day she strives to succeed,
With true friends’ support to nurture her soul’s need.
Day after day she yearns for things to be different,
Hoping to forget who she resent.
But in every human’s heart, parents form a big part,
So without parents’ love, there is a hole in CC’s heart.
Being entrusted with vital missions,
Working with life-long friends in unison.
CC still aches for family,
Ached to convey all feelings buried within her heart to her father sincerely.
But with a daddy under her stepmother’s spell,
Who remains silent when CC yells,
Breaking the ice between she and her dad
Is a very long way to go... Well, perhaps it isn’t really that bad
Since CC is never alone again.
She has friends to share distress with, thus lessening her pain
And enriching her life with meanings,
Enabling her to stand up without trembling.
‘We are children of destiny with no doubt,
The future belongs to us!’ she shouted.
Number of words: 1736