What is a summary of Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Laurence Yep's young reader's novel Child of the Owl features Casey, a Chinese-American girl at the age of twelve, growing to value her Chinese heritage.

The novel opens with her Chinese-American father, Barney, being in the hospital with severe injuries from having been mugged. He had won a jackpot from bets placed on a horse race and had just paid off his bookie when he was mugged in the alley. Since Barney will be in the hospital awhile recuperating from multiple broken bones, he asks Casey to go and live with her Chinese-American Uncle Phil for a while, her deceased mother's older brother and a wealthy "big-shot lawyer," in his "fancy house in the St. Francis Woods section of San Francisco."

Casey feels stifled at Uncle Phil's; he is only concerned with money and aesthetics. When Uncle Phil begins thinking Casey will negatively influence his daughters, he has her sent to live with her maternal grandmother, Paw-Paw, in Chinatown. Once in Chinatown, having only thought of herself as American, Casey feels uncomfortable because she thinks she should already know things about Chinese culture, language, and China's history.

Paw-Paw proves to be a very wise and knowledgeable elderly woman. The first thing she does is explain to Casey the reason behind Casey's tendency to feel lonely and isolated from the world, using the myth of the Child of the Owl. Using the myth, Paw also encourages her by saying that, like the owl, she will eventually rise above her troubles. Paw-Paw also gives her an owl-charm necklace that symbolizes Casey's family heritage as a Child of the Owl.

Despite these wise words, Casey continues to struggle. She is bullied at her new school in Chinatown. Investigations into her family history also reveal that her father's gambling addiction runs deeper than she thought it did. One night, the owl necklace is stolen. Casey's investigation leads her to discover that her father stole the necklace to further feed his gambling addiction. Casey's discover leads her to make the decision to continue living with Paw-Paw as a Child of the Owl rather than with her father.

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