I have read several one-star reviews written by people who stopped reading after the phrase, "Minli was not brown and dull like the rest of the village."; they were personally offended because they thought the author was describing the color of Minli's skin. Grace Lin was not describing Minli's skin color.
An earlier paragraph describes the village as: "a shade of faded brown. This was because the land around the village was hard and poor. To coax rice out of the stubborn land, the fields had to be flooded with water. The villagers had to tramp in the mud, bending and stooping and planting day after day. Working in the mud so much made it spread everywhere and the hot sun dried it onto their clothes and hair and homes. Over time, everything in the village had become the dull color of dried mud."
I hope this will help clarify those who had concerns after reading the negative reviews and wanted to know more.