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The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island Hardcover – March 25, 2008
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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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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When Gim Lew's father finally arrives back home in China, the family hosts a huge celebration with a feast and gifts. But the celebratory feelings quickly die off when they learn the motivation behind his early return: He wants Gim Lew to come back to America with him to work. Everyone knew it would happen eventually, but they didn't think it would come to fruition until Gim Lew had grown older. But new immigration rules forming would make entrance to America even more difficult, so he wanted to get him in while he still could. Gim Lew bids farewell to his mother, sister and homeland, with doubts of ever seeing them again.
Gim Lew and his father board a ship bound for America. While packed tightly in the bowels of the ship, Gim Lew gets to know his father while they study for the exam that awaits them. Immigration officials intensely interrogate each returning Chinese American to confirm that he is indeed the same fellow who left. As a son, Gim Lew will undergo the same test. If he fails, then he will be returned to China, sodden in shame. Gim Lew studies hard and focuses on improving his stuttering. He refuses to be a disgrace to his family. Slowly, he begins to accept having to leave China and starts looking forward to the adventure that awaits him.
Laurence Yep has written over 60 books for young people, winning many awards along the way. His newest story is historical fiction based on his own ancestors --- Gim Lew is the author's father. Much of his research came from the immigration records used to test the returning Chinese Americans. Yep has done a brilliant job weaving fact and fiction into this poignant story. He brings to life the harsh treatment these people had to undergo just to be a part of both their Chinese and American worlds.
As Yep writes in his Author's Note, "...historical fiction is more than a record of dates and statistics: it should be a dialogue with the dead." He also has a vivid grasp of description, bringing his pages to life ("I loved to watch the crops grow and ripen until the land was covered by a living green fur. Then, when the water was drained away, the fur turned a beautiful gold. And when the wind blew, it was like a giant hand stroking a lion.").
THE DRAGON'S CHILD is more than just an entertaining story. It is a reminder of the past and a teacher for the future.
--- Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman, author of FINDING MY LIGHT and THE BLACK POND
However, I live with a family of boys, and not ONE of them liked this book. It's a shame, but it seems the book appeals more to adults than to kids.
Some good things about the book are how the boy and his father get to know each other and start to like each other even though the father has been away for the boy's whole life. Plus there is some really good historical stuff if you want to learn about history.
The bad thing about the book is that it isn't all that exciting even though it's kind of interesting. This would be a good book for teachers to make their students read to learn about history, but it might be too boring for most kids to want to read on their own.