Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Book Info
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
© 2009 Greenwillow Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0061730214

Plot Summary
Ai Ling is a seventeen year old woman in the Chinese kingdom of Xia. In a culture where male children are prized, Ai Ling is somewhat of a disgrace as an unwed woman when most others her age are already arranged into marriage and have birthed children. She is the daughter of a couple who actually married for love, was educated by her father, and has developed some unique skills as she matured, such as the ability to essentially read the thoughts of others.

Ai Ling’s father is called to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams and leaves her with a special and potentially powerful jade pendant and the reminder of her singularity. He assures her that he will be away no longer than two months, but when he doesn’t return and she begins to sense that something evil is after her that is both frightening and incomprehensible, she decides to embark on a journey to the Palace to find him. It will take all of her strength, courage, will and powers she has yet to develop, along with the help of friends she will meet along the way to succeed in order to find her father and defeat the terrifying evil.

Reader’s Annotation
Ai Ling’s father is long overdue from his journey, and she senses that something incredibly evil is at play. She must embark on a journey to save him, utilizing every ounce of strength, courage and willpower, along with some special powers she wasn’t even aware that she possessed, in order to defeat the evil and bring him home safely.

Critical Evaluation
Most of the controversy surrounding Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix had nothing to do with her book’s content or writing style, but rather the cover. Featuring a picture of the story’s main character dressed in a pink Chinese styled dress, the book was not stocked by the major chain Borders and carried only in very limited supply by Barnes and Noble. In April 2010, the book was rereleased in paperback with a brand new, but whitewashed cover to appeal to a wider audience. On the inside, the book tells beautifully crafted fantasy story. Pon delved into her Asian heritage and combined it with her love of fantasy to craft creative mythology and a fantastical adventure. Currently dominated by the likes of vampires and werewolves, Pon brings a somewhat unique addition to the fantasy young adult fiction shelves.

Information about the Author
Cindy Pon was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and her family immigrated to California in 1980, settling in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She began writing stories before she was officially declared English proficient. She received her bachelor’s from the University of California, San Diego, and also earned a master’s from New York University.

The author is a student of Chinese brush painting, and her love for the art is reflected in her storytelling. Cindy Pon lives with her husband and two small children in San Diego, CA.

Visit the author’s website.

Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
Silver Phoenix is set in a fictional past China, but much of the aspects of the culture are drawn from history. Discuss some of the differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

  • Sexuality
  • Violence
  • Magic
  • Paranormal/Demons

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • It is a fantasy novel, which often feature elements of paranormal, magic, violence and demons. Compare challenges and defenses for this novel to others like it for ideas.
    • The Eastern culture featured in the book is much different from Western themes, specifically regarding its treatment of women. Ensure that challengers are aware of these cultural differences in order to see how they fit into the story.

Why Included?
Cindy Pon is yet another local San Diego author I was introduced to through my library, and I have been eager to support the local San Diego talent and do my part to help get the word out about their great works.


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