Excerpts from The Kirkus Review of The Dragon Carousel:
“Written and illustrated by an 11-year-old girl, this children’s book tells the wonderful tale of a little girl in San Francisco who must attend a new school and leave old friends behind.
Motherless Lily Chen lives in San Francisco near the wharf, and her father operates the Dragon Carousel in Golden Gate Park. When her father’s work schedule changes, it necessitates Lily attending a new school, Oakpark Elementary, and leaving her old friends behind. Feeling isolated and alone, she’s having a hard time adjusting […] It’ll be easy for most children to relate to Lily’s dilemma. Her background, the description of the Dragon Carousel, the problems encountered in the new school and the denouement are all beautifully detailed, resulting in a magical, powerful message for young readers. In addition to the recently drawn new cover, the charming original cover and interior pages are also included. The artwork displays the author’s natural talent and terrific eye for detail, like cracks in a bowl or the springs of a mattress. An especially enchanting illustration depicts Lily standing with a lunch tray surrounded by three new girls, each dressed with delicious details, including platform shoes and sunglasses dangling from a handbag.
A true treasure from a very young author.”
“A bossy middle school fashionista feels threatened by the new girl in Saii’s YA novel.
Vanessa Pocker and her friends Chelsea, Adrienne and Katie are the richest of the rich in their Santa Monica, Calif., middle school, and they comprise the Sassy Divas. Vanessa leads the pack and dictates whom the divas are allowed to talk to, what they’re allowed to wear and how they conduct themselves in public. Vanessa is so domineering that it’s a miracle she has any friends at all. Had Saii endowed her with an ounce of kindness, the loyalty of her minions might be more understandable. Vanessa’s militant nature finally alienates Katie, the diva who is too much of a bookworm, according to Vanessa. Katie befriends Flo, who’s on the Sassy Diva “do not speak to” list (Flo had once refused to hold Vanessa’s purse). Excommunicated from the Sassy Divas, Katie befriends the new girl at the school, Quinn. This infuriates Vanessa, and she declares war. A power play ensues among the adversarial lip-glossed sets, with Vanessa, Chelsea and Adrienne on one side and Katie, Quinn and Flo on the other. Vanessa turns to guy friend Ryan, who offers the only voice of reason when he admonishes her for obsessing over trivialities, such as revenge and makeovers, when there are starving children in the world. He seems to be nothing more than Vanessa’s sounding board, and it’s unclear what he gets out of the relationship. At least Vanessa buys clothes and makeup for her divas, on occasion. Mired in trendy youngster lingo, Saii’s tale accurately depicts girls’ power plays and the alienation that can result from simply owning jeans without a designer label. Fashion, gossip, popularity and shopping define these characters, and any threat of competition is cause for war. Vanessa’s parents rarely make appearances, except for a poignant scene when Vanessa’s mother engages her daughter in a heart-to-heart about her selfish behavior. It’s a relief to finally hear the mother speak and lead the story to an ending marked with humor and depth. Saii’s literary chops are inconsistently displayed and improve toward the conclusion. Although the average middle school girl may not wear Jimmy Choos or form private elitist groups, young readers might find themselves curious about these affluent trendsetters. At least Vanessa learns her lesson, which raises the novel a notch above teenybopper fluff.
A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.”