by Linda Sue Park (2005)
Project Mulberry is a solid, first-rate story with some serious science and horticulture at its core. It is a tale of two friends and their silkworm raising project. Its many layers explore a powerful story of preconceived prejudice and pride. Linda Sue Park presents characters who are Korean, black, white, urban, and rural. All must confront their biases and reveal their talents.
Park’s story creates lessons in literature at two levels; the plot concerns a silkworm farming project that teaches gently-toned truths regarding life-and-death on a farm. And, the multi-generational characters confront subtle layers of cultural prejudice. Not without some difficulty, they each grow in their own way to understand their differences.
Newbery Award-winning author, Linda Sue Park, includes a running dialogue with her protagonist, Julia Song, while she’s writing the story. Park’s humorous side-conversation allows her to “adjust” her story here and there and Julia’s strong-willed determination to literally “write her own story” help make Project Mulberry a powerful reading experience. Middle schools may want to explore or mime these innovative story-telling techniques, encouraging students to think and imagine and write from ‘a writer’s viewpoint.’
Multiculturally rich communities can also celebrate the tricky conversations raised in Project Mulberry. The self-discoveries experienced by different characters can be a tool to guide students who are learning how to be sensitive, concerned, and considerate. Any young reader reading Project Mulberry could be transformed.