"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dragon's Gate

by Laurence Yep

Sorry I haven't posted a review lately, but big things are happening for us and its been a little crazy of late.  My reading time has been sparse, but I've managed to finally get through a rather large book I was working on.  But this review is instead about a book I read in between waiting for the library to let me check the big one out again, and which was much more manageable and enjoyable.

Dragon's Gate is written by Laurence Yep, a prolific author of children's and young adult books that tell stories centering around Chinese immigrants and their stories.  This particular book of his is about a young man who lives a good life is China but dreams of going to the "Golden Mountain" of America with his father and uncle, who proclaim it to be a wonderful place.  Through unexpected circumstances he ends up going to the Golden Mountain and finds out that it is not at all what he expected.  He joins his father and uncle who work blasting through a mountain to build the railroad.  The Chinese workers are treated poorly and unfairly as they work on the "Dragon's Gate" as they call it.  The boy Otter helps the other workers see the way they are being treated and begins a small revolt that leads to a strike.  The workers are able to negotiate for better treatment, but it forever changes young Otter and makes him see the world in a different way.

I enjoyed this story because it was based on true events.  It started with a lovely story about a small part of Chinese culture at the time, and then it moved into the terrible and true story of the Chinese immigrants that made much of the railroad and the Western expansion possible.  Yep does a fabulous job of understating things and not making them too melodramatic, mostly because a story like this does not need anything added to it to make it poignant, important, and touching.  I'm not the only one who thinks this is a great book since it won a Newbery Honor Award in 1994.

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