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Claudia spends the summer in the house of her grandmother, who is Chinese. She tells Claudia bits of family history, a terrible past that is a source of both sadness and pride. In this way, Claudia learns about the hard life of her great-grandfather Opal, who was a spy during World War I. This novel, rich in life lessons and emotions, recreates exotic environments through Chinese stories and legends interspersed with the narration.