Much like Molly in Molly’s Pilgrim, Oy is finding it hard to adjust to her new school. When her family first moved to the United States from Thailand, being Asian was not a big deal. A move to a different school is proving to be a difficult transition for Oy. Despite the diverse population (which includes Mexicans, a Somalian, a Native American and a little girl from Finland) Oy is made to feel an outsider. Two students focus their attention on her, but for very different reasons. While Liliandra is clearly the ring leader of a girl’s club and is promising Oy friendship if she shares her beautiful Thai dress, Frankie is more of a mystery. Oy eventually does find friendship, but at what cost?
In The Gold-Threaded Dress we find out the ways in which school is difficult for Oy and we also get glimpses of how things are hard for her mother. In one chapter as they travel to Thai dance class, Oy has to read signs for her mother and also manage the American money. There is not much detail given about why they left Thailand, but some information is given.
Oy is called Olivia at school. I am pretty bothered by this because it seems that this American name was proposed by her kindergarten teacher. She doesn’t feel that it is her name at all. While I have met Asians who have an American name that they use as well as another name, the fact that this was not chosen or decided on by her family makes it really distasteful to me. Children are pretty smart and adaptable; the other students certainly could have learned her real name if given time and guidance. For the record, I don’t fault Marsden for including this, I’m sad to say that it seems based in reality.
The words Kun Pa and Kun Mere are used for Oy’s parents. These seem to be Marsden’s own transliteration for the Thai words for mother and father. Kyun or Khun is used as a sign of respect before the word for father or mother. Marsden likely simplified that to Kun for easy for reading for children.
The Gold-Threaded Dress is on-level for third grade. For those of you teaching guided reading, it would be an N or O. Because of the simplicity of story this book will not likely be of interest to students above grade six. However, in the story Oy is a fourth grader, so I think this will have some appeal with older children who are reading below grade level. Also, I was delighted to learn that it has a sequel called The Quail Club. I will definitely be looking at that story when the library gets it in for me, because if I teach a book in a guided reading group the students will often continue the series.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – The girls shimmy in and out of a dress behind a shed on the playground. Some wait in their underwear for their turn to try it on.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.