The Girl Mechanic of Wanzhou
The year is 1902. China is on the brink of a great revolution. The old empire is crumbling but still strong enough to muzzle and crush anyone who’s perceived as a threat.
Twelve-year-old Zun, a resident of the fictional town of Wanzhou, is unlike other girls of her age. It’s unusual enough that she can read and write, a skill she learnt from her scribe mother, but little Zun has also acquired a fierce passion for all things mechanical from her father, a bicycle-maker. But Zun’s happy childhood is disrupted when her father is killed under mysterious circumstances and her mother is thrown in prison under false charges. Zun is forced to flee her home and undertake a dangerous journey, and she needs all her wits about her in order to survive and eventually rescue her mother.
Marjorie Sayer’s prose catches the reader’s attention, pins it down, and doesn’t let go until the last page. Using the invention of the bicycle to portray the tussle between tradition and modernity, Sayer captures the sights and sounds of China in the early 1900s beautifully, while telling a gripping, breathlessly paced story.
The Girl Mechanic of Wanzhou was the first runner-up for the Scholastic Asian Book Award, 2011.