The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas: Review


This book was given to me to review for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 event (1/31/20). Thank you Lee & Low for this book copy!

Wow! What an enjoyable read! This book has a way more interesting interpretation of Mulan than any Disney movie.

We’re all familiar with the story of Mulan: a girl dresses as a man to represent her family in a time of war. Sherry Thomas’ interpretation adds so much richness to this classic story, making Mulan an engaging, complex and contemporarily relevant character.

Mulan grew up in the Hua family, trained in the art of swordsmanship. Her family has a rivalry with the Peng family. Each generation these families must duel with their inherited familial swords. When Mulan enters the war, she finds herself guarding a young princeling, who is revealed to be her long-time rival. Throughout the novel, Mulan travels with the princeling and his “crew” (for lack of a better word), discovering an insider plot to overthrow the emperor of the North. Mulan has to decide whether she’ll keep herself safe or fight for her family and country.

Being a long-time Fire Emblem fan, I couldn’t help but read this novel as sort of a Chinese Fire Emblem story. There are tactics, war, romance, and interesting characters that become more complex and relatable as you spend time with them through battle after battle.

I love some of the themes this novel really highlights through its characters. Mulan feels an inferiority complex in believing her father would prefer her to be a son. When she freezes up in her first battle, she feels guilt at her failure. She has a romantic interest but this romance does not immobilize her. As an apt Amazon review reads: “this Mulan would eat the Disney Mulan for breakfast.” She has personality and holds her own, making for a really great protagonist.

Other characters also grapple with their fears and vulnerabilities. I love that these strong, tough characters all have fears and vulnerable sides. Everyone is human and rich. War is ugly and terrifying for all those it affects. There is a refreshing and not cheesy take on forgiveness and restoration. I particularly appreciated the subplot focusing on race relations in China, and how one character expresses fear of his minority heritage being erased. The political complexities were not only incredibly educational (Thomas clearly did her homework) but also engage with contemporary concerns about erasure of diverse histories and the urgent need for all voices and stories to be heard.

There were times that I got lost in the world’s tactics and political nuances. But all in all, I found it a rich and meaningful read, full of compelling twists and turns. There’s something for every reader in this powerful book.

lee and low collage

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers BooksTimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Lauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!


Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.


MultiCulturalChildrensBookDay 2020 poster

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