Project Mulberry, a novel by Linda Sue Park, is about two kids taking on a small (in scale) but massive (in effort) science project to enter into the national state fair. What kid wouldn’t like to try something new like growing silk worms to make silk yarn? Sounds adventurous? Well not to Julia Song who had wished she could do a project more ‘American’ and less ‘Korean’. Julia Song and her friend Patrick, embark on a journey of discovery - learning many important facts and rediscovering self along the way.
Project Mulberry also underscores several important issues that run as undercurrents in the book. One of those issues is racism. Julia and Patrick had to find a mulberry tree, as mulberry leaves are the only food silk worms eat. The only mulberry tree that existed in their neighborhood was in the yard of Mr. Dixon, one of the few African Americans living in the neighborhood. Julia’s mom did not like blacks, but she must come face to face with her prejudice and deal with it or risk jeopardizing her daughter’s science project; a prejudice Julia and her family are familiar with because they are Koreans. Julia learned many important facts about the silkworm during the project, but by its completion she had also learned a lot about life.
The book, Project Mulberry is a good book to use for late elementary into early middle school reading projects, as there are a variety of teaching elements to pick up on in the story, such as friendship, prejudice, money issues, and goal accomplishment. Scene development between the chapters flowed naturally giving the story a continuous feel and the movement of time and event sequencing was successfully done; thereby teaching kids how to write a piece in which the drama plays out naturally. The inclusion of the author and the narrator speaking together on several occasions in the book, is contemporary and priceless, as it opens up to the reader to the author’s thinking in the process of writing the book. This too can be a valuable teaching aide in the art of writing.
Project Mulberry is a must-read, and should find its way to your kids’ shelves as a final resting place. It’s a novel that is memorable and timeless.