Reviews

From Northwest Asian Weekly, October 2010

“Secret” is about finding one’s voice — for Jinna, this is literally and figuratively the case. Although her vocal chords don’t work at school, Jinna learns English through listening and observation. She is a bright girl and gets the opportunity to prove herself when her teacher assigns the class a writing project.   Jinna displays strength of character when she stands up to bullies and helps those in need, all the while not speaking a single word. This just goes to show that sometimes, actions speak louder than words.

- Samantha Pak,  Copyright 2010 Northwest Asian Weekly

From School Library Journal

On Jinna's first day of school in this country, she is nervous and confused. Her parents expect her to learn English quickly, but when she is asked to repeat a word in her ESL class, she finds she cannot speak at all, not even in Chinese. The problem grows worse and worse, until Jinna's inability to talk leads her fifth-grade classmates and teachers to believe she is slow or just trying to get attention. Only at home, while inventing the story of Princess Jade-Blossom, which she acts out with characters made of yarn, can Jinna find the courage to speak English. But this is her own secret world, one that she doesn't want to share with anyone, not even Priscilla, the lonely outcast who gradually becomes her friend. Priscilla helps Jinna find the courage to speak in her own way, to prove that even though she finds it hard to talk, she is learning; and that she, too, is brave, clever, and noble, like the princess in her imagination. Wonderfully crafted, with believable and sympathetic characters, Gina Zhang draws readers into Jinna's world of fear and frustration. Princess Jade-Blossom's adventures in the Land of Far Away are interwoven throughout Jinna's own story, paralleling the challenges she faces in her new life in Seattle. This moving and absorbing novel conveys the terrors of having to adapt to a new school and a new language.
- Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly

When her family moves to Seattle, Wash., from a village in southern China, 12-year-old Jinna must overcome her extreme shyness and learn to speak English. She wants desperately to prove she's as smart as everyone else is, but finds herself unable to will the words out of her mouth. Focusing almost entirely on Jinna's struggles in school, Yang's first novel conveys some of the unique challenges of the immigrant experience. . . .  Jinna is a clever and brave heroine who will leave readers cheering.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang

Jinna has always been shy, but when her family moves to America from China, she vows to be the new “Gina” – brave, confident, and quick to learn English.  If only her throat would cooperate.  Every time she tries to speak at school, no words come out. What is wrong with her?

Everyone is frustrated by Gina’s silence except Priscilla, a girl with her own need for understanding.  Priscilla is as talkative as Gina is quiet.

Gina wants to trust her, but can she let Priscilla in on her biggest secret, the private fairy-tale world inside her head?

This book is now available in a newly reprinted version, in paperback and kindle, through Dori's store.  Also available in Nook format through barnesandnoble.com

The original version of this book, published by Pleasant Company Publications in 2000, is out of print. It is available through your local library and for purchase second hand through amazon.com, Powell’s Books, and other sites that include out-of-print books.

Author's Comment: The inspiration for this book came from two young students from China I was helping as a volunteer in one of Seattle’s public elementary schools.  From my own experience living overseas, I know how frustrating it feels when you can’t express yourself in the language of the people around you.  You look and sound dumb.

Reviews: From School Library Journal - On Jinna's first day of school in this country, she is nervous and confused. Her parents expect her to learn English quickly, but when she is asked to repeat a word in her ESL class, she finds she cannot speak at all, not even in Chinese.

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