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Meet Cilla Lee-Jenkins!

Susan Tan sat among the #ownvoices panel at #nErDcampLI on November 2, 2019. I walked away knowing that I needed to dive into the Cilla Lee-Jenkins series. What I knew was that I would be introduced to a character inspired by Dr. Tan’s own childhood: a young girl navigating her Chinese American family while exploring her extreme longing to become an author one day. What I did not know was that I was about to meet a character who would make me laugh out loud and teach me important life lessons about identity, family, and friendship.

Susan Tan joined fellow own voice authors at Nerd Camp LI 2019!

Series Snapshot:

  • Book #1 Cilla Lee-Jenkins Future Author Extraordinaire (2017): As a second grader, Cilla anticipates the arrival of her baby sister (“The Blob”). She questions just how Chinese she is and observes a divide between her family. Why must families be so complicated?
  • Book #2 Cilla Lee-Jenkins This Book is a Classic (2018): As a third grader, Cilla navigates what it means to maintain existing friendships and grow new ones. She elaborates on special family traditions and learns to embrace her Chinese culture even more than before. Cilla’s heart is warmed as her family creates a stronger bond.
  • Book #3 Cilla Lee-Jenkins The Epic Story (2019): As a fifth grader, Cilla endures her last year in elementary school. This chapter comes along with challenges: TWO baby sisters, new expectations and peer dynamics at school, and comforting & coaching Ye Ye during a difficult time.
4Q was introduced to Cilla in December through #FirstChapterFriday. We shared some giggles together. All 3 of Cilla’s writing adventures now live in our classroom library!

If you’re already a Cilla Lee-Jenkins fan, be sure to check out her most recent experience as a fifth grader:

Even though my Epic will be a little bit different because I get seasick on boat rides, am scared of slugs, and don’t have superpowers (unfortunately), I know it will still end the same way. And when my Epic is done, I should be ready to be a middle schooler.”

-Cilla Lee-Jenkins

Across the series, I’m hopeful that readers will learn:

  • Writers can be inspired by their every day lives. We can write about big special events or seemingly ordinary moments.
  • Change can be challenging. When we embrace the challenges of change, they can eventually bring joy into our lives.
  • At times, we may have questions about who we are. It’s important to explore what makes us special.
  • True friends stay in our hearts and minds even when we welcome new friendships into our lives.
  • Every family is unique. Some may include different languages, traditions and beliefs, but each family is filled with a whole lot of love.

If you and your students are yet to meet Cilla, what are you waiting for?!


If you’re looking for more series to hook your readers, check out this incredibly helpful guide created by a fellow TBR blogger, Gwen Blumberg. Happy reading!

1 thought on “Meet Cilla Lee-Jenkins!”

  1. How special that you met the author of the series and could share Cilla Lee-Jenkins’ experiences with your students through the three books. The five bullet points that you are “hopeful that readers will learn” are beautifully stated and are so valuable. Well done Ms. Quimby

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