From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6—Based on conversations with his father and hundreds of pages of family interviews from the archives at Angel Island, Yep's story tells of his father's trip to America. In 1922, 10-year-old Gim Lew Yep is horrified to learn that he is to accompany his father when he returns and must prepare for the interview at Angel Island, an intensive examination about the minute details of his village and family in China. A nervous child, Gim always forgets to use his right hand instead of his left, and, worst of all, he stutters when he's anxious. Furthermore, he is heartsick over leaving his home and family. Told in Gim's very convincing voice, the tale captures the profound loss he feels at leaving his home as well as his determination to make his father proud of him. Though the book is easy to read, it is more complex than Li Keng Wong's Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain
(Peachtree, 2006), another story for the same age group. Yep raises many issues about both Chinese immigration and the immigrant experience in general: Who am I? Where do I belong? How can I balance the duality of my life? Why do people treat others this way? The photograph of Gim Lew in his Western clothes shows a very real sadness and anxiety that are common to anyone leaving family and country behind as they journey to a new life, and Yep captures this beautifully in this brief fictionalized account.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA
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Yep’s many fine books about the Chinese American experience include his Newbery Honor Dragonwings (1975). Now in a dramatic blend of fact and fiction, Laurence Yep and his niece draw on family stories, immigration records, and memories of Laurence’s own conversations to tell his dad’s story of coming to America at age 10 with his Chinese American dad. Each chapter begins with a simple question to his dad: Were you sad when you left your village? Were you nervous about America? The answers personalize the young immigrant’s heart-wrenching leaving, the journey over, the racism, and climax of the rigorous interview at Angel Island, where Yep’s father faces the threat of being refused entry to America. Tension builds and secrets are revealed as his father practices for the Test, tries not to act nervous, and hides his left-handedness and his stammer. With family photos, a historical note, and a long bibliography, this stirring narrative will spark readers’ own search for roots. Grades 3-6. --Hazel Rochman