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Authors: Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Tags: #Ages 10 & Up

Flying the Dragon

Flying the Dragon

Natalie Dias Lorenzi


To all the Hiroshis and Skyes who have ever walked through my classroom door. Your courage and resilience never cease to amaze me.

The Japanese characters at the beginning of each chapter are the
for Hiroshi’s and Skye’s names.

Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Charlesbridge and colophon are registered trademarks of Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

Published by Charlesbridge

85 Main Street

Watertown, MA 02472


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lorenzi, Natalie Dias.

    Flying the dragon / Natalie Dias Lorenzi.

        p. cm.

    Summary: When Skye’s cousin Hiroshi and his family move to Virginia from Japan, the cultural differences lead to misunderstandings and both children are unhappy at the changes in their lives—will flying the dragon kite finally bring them together?

    ISBN 978-1-60734-529-9

1. Japanese American families—Juvenile fiction. 2. Moving, Household—Juvenile fiction. 3. Japanese—Virginia—Juvenile fiction. 4. Culture shock—Juvenile fiction. 5. Cousins—Juvenile fiction. 6. Kites—Juvenile fiction. 7. Schools—Juvenile fiction. 8. Virginia—Juvenile fiction. [1. Japanese Americans—Fiction. 2. Family life—Virginia—Fiction. 3. Racially mixed people—Fiction. 4. Moving, Household—Fiction. 5. Japanese—United States—Fiction. 6. Culture shock—Fiction. 7. Cousins—Fiction. 8. Kites—Fiction. 9. Schools—Fiction. 10. Virginia—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.L885F1 2012



Display type set in Kid Captain and text type set in Adobe Caslon

Color separations by KHL ChromaGraphics, Singapore

Printed and bound February 2012 by Worzalla Publishing Company in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA

Production supervision by Brian G. Walker

Designed by Susan Mallory Sherman


Skye had known something was coming. The way her dad had been acting lately was beyond his normal weirdness. She just never guessed the something coming would be a bunch of Japanese relatives she’d never met.

The first sign of trouble was when her dad switched from silverware to chopsticks. Maybe she shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, her dad was Japanese. Sort of. He’d been born and raised in Japan but hadn’t been back since he married her mom. To Skye he was pretty much American. And since Virginia is about as far away from Japan as you can get, Skye didn’t blame herself for forgetting that she was half Japanese herself.

But it wasn’t the chopsticks themselves that had started the whole thing. No, it happened when Skye had
about them. Everything snowballed from there.

“What are you doing, Dad?” Skye’s fork hovered above her spaghetti and meatballs.

Her dad leaned over his plate, two strands of slippery spaghetti trapped in his chopsticks. He winked at Skye, slurped the noodles into his mouth, and chewed, apparently oblivious to the trail of sauce left behind on his chin.

“I’m eating. What does it look like I’m doing?”

From the glint in his eyes, Skye figured he was up to one of his usual jokes.

Her mom handed him a napkin. “Your chin, honey.”

He laughed. “Can you believe how rusty I am? Twelve years in America and I’ve forgotten how to eat.”

Her mom laughed, too. “I never did get the hang of eating with chopsticks.”

Neither had Skye. Come to think of it, Skye had never seen her mom use chopsticks. “Didn’t you learn when you lived in Tokyo?”

Her mom shook her head. “Not even then. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.” She looked at Skye’s dad and smiled. “Remember when you bought me a set of kids’ chopsticks—with the ridges at the tips that make them easier to use? Supposedly.”

Skye’s dad nodded, grinning through a mouthful of spaghetti. “You wanted to become an expert before I took you … home.” He lowered his chopsticks and set them on the table, their tips propped on a miniature, black lacquered wood version of a samurai sword.

Her mom stared at her fork as she trailed the pasta around her plate.

“What?” Skye took another bite. “So what happened? Did you learn how to eat with chopsticks?”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full, Skye.” Her mom set her fork down.

Skye swallowed in one gulp. “Okay, so what happened, then?”

Skye’s parents had never talked much about her dad’s family. She knew they lived in Japan and that her dad had three brothers and a father—Skye’s grandfather. Her grandmother had died before Skye was born. She’d always wondered about her Japanese relatives, but after years of unanswered questions, she’d given up.

Tonight was no different. Her mom’s chair scraped against the tile floor as she stood and brought her half-full plate to the sink. Her dad glanced once more at the chopsticks, picked up his fork, and finished his spaghetti in silence.

A week after the Chopsticks Incident came the

Skye and her parents went out for pizza with her soccer team to celebrate their win against the West Springfield Sprinters. But it wasn’t the same without Lucy there. Skye’s best friend had moved away a month before, all the way to San Francisco. That afternoon Skye had scored the winning goal without Lucy. When All-Star Amber had kicked the ball right to Skye in a smooth, perfect pass, Skye had thwacked it into the net. And to finish off a perfect afternoon, Coach Tess had announced the All-Star list for the coming summer.

Skye’s name was finally on it.

Amber had been the team’s top player since forever—and now here she was at the pizzeria chatting away with Skye about All-Star summer camp and coaches and plays. It should have been Skye’s shining moment.

When the pizza arrived, everyone grabbed a slice, and that’s when it happened. Skye’s dad called out, “

In front of everyone. He smiled as he said it, as if everyone at the table understood Japanese.
What is he doing?
Whenever Skye’s dad spoke to her in Japanese, it was always at home or when they were alone. Never in front of a crowd.

Amber paused mid-bite, a tightrope of cheese stretching from her teeth to the tip of her pizza slice. She exchanged a look across the table with Kelsey. Skye thought it might have been a smirk, but it was hard to tell with their mouths full. Kelsey looked at Skye’s dad and cocked her head. “What is that—Chinese?”

Skye wanted to roll her eyes. Japanese and Chinese sounded nothing alike.

Coach Tess laughed and asked, “Does that mean you like the pizza?”

That was all the fuel Skye’s dad needed. “It means
enjoy your meal.
” From his wide grin Skye could tell he was loving every moment. Skye glanced at Amber and Kelsey, who were trying—and failing—to muffle a shared giggle.

Skye’s mom chimed in. “It’s Japanese, Kelsey.”

“How do you say it, again?” Coach Tess leaned in from her seat at the head of the table. Everyone stopped talking and stared at her dad, but Skye kept chewing. Looking down and chewing.

” her dad said, drawing it out. Coach Tess repeated the word and was rewarded with a bow from Skye’s dad.

Just. Great.

Skye’s mom beamed, like she had the most clever husband in the world. Coach Tess was smiling, but it looked to Skye like one of those polite, oh-isn’t-that-(not)-interesting smiles. Kelsey and Amber didn’t muffle their giggles this time. Skye told herself she didn’t care that Amber and Kelsey were laughing at her dad—even though she wanted to give his shin a penalty kick under the table. Her dad just sat there, eating and grinning, totally clueless.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

When everyone had finished their pizza, Skye’s dad turned to her and said, “
Gochisou sama deshita,
” with a satisfied pat of his stomach. Skye nodded without looking up from her plate.
Okay, so you enjoyed the meal. Would it kill you to say it in English?

When they were finally back in the car, Skye couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Dad?” She took a breath to keep herself from shouting. “Why were you speaking Japanese in there?”

He kept his eyes on the road. Whenever her dad didn’t answer right away, it meant he was thinking, and there was no use hurrying him. Tonight was no exception.

Her mom sighed. “We need to tell her, Issei.”

“Tell me what?”

Her dad glanced at Skye in the rearview mirror, then looked away.

“Issei,” her mom said, her voice soft.

Skye’s dad nodded, eyes still on the road. “I’ve been thinking lately that you and I should speak in Japanese more often,

Skye frowned. “But we do.”

“Not as much as we used to. And whenever I speak to you in Japanese, you answer in English.”

Her mom turned and looked at Skye. “This is my fault, really. I should study more so you two don’t have to stick to English around me.” Even after she’d lived in Tokyo for two years, her mom’s Japanese had never been great.

They pulled into the driveway. The conversation seemed closed, but Skye knew there had to be more. She’d had enough of secrets.


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