Since publishing his first story at the age of eighteen, Laurence Yep has earned a reputation and a following as the country's top Asian American writer of children's books. His works run the gamut from picture books to novels and from fantasy to historical fiction. He has tackled humor in middle-grade novels such as The Imp That Ate My Homework, and put his own spin on a classic tale with The Dragon Prince, a Chinese retelling of Beauty and the Best. However, he is probably best known for his young adult novels, which so masterfully introduce readers to both life in China and to the Chinese experience in America, the "Land of the Golden Mountain." HarperCollin's Golden Mountain Chronicles will include seven of Yep's varied explorations of his heritage, from the historical and award-winning Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate to the contemporary Child of the Owl and Theif of Hearts. Two brand-new future titles in this series promise further unique insight into Asian American culture and though.
Drawing from extensive research as well as the memories and emotions of his relatives, Yep writes about both China and America. His stories appeal to today's young adults because, he says, he is always pursuing the theme of alienation, a common feeling among all teenagers, whether native-born or not. Having grown up in a predominantly black neighborhood in San Francisco, Yep always felt like the community's "token Asian," and an outsider. It's a feeling he has never forgotten, and one that comes through in all the characters he creates - from the science fiction aliens in his first novel, Sweetwater, to the alienated and all-too-human aviator in Dragonwings.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of the acclaimed Newbery Honor Book Dragonwings, readers of all ages are invited to discover (or rediscover) Laurence Yep's unique vision and perspective on history, as told through the eyes of some extraordinary young people.
Content provided by the publisher.
For further information about Laurence and his books, visit his web site at www.laurenceyepbooks.com.
Amy Chin loves to dance, and ballet lessons have been her release to coping with the death of her father. Her family struggles to make ends meet until her mother lands a lucrative position as nanny, or amah, to Stephanie. However, mom's good job interferes with Amy's dancing when she must miss lessons to care for younger siblings. Amy grows jealous of the perfect Miss Stephanie, who does no wrong and brightens everyone's lives. Amy believes she is losing her mother to this young girl and her own existence is threatened when Stephanie moves in with the Chin family for a week. Luckily for her, not everything is as it seems. 1999, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $15.99. Ages 9 to 14. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
The Case of the Firecrackers
Auntie Lil and her niece Lily are no strangers to danger in their third case in the "Chinatown Mystery" series. During the filming of a show, Clark Tom, the Hollywood heartthrob, actually comes under fire from a loaded gun. As this was not part of the script, fingers point to a poor laundryman's grandson and Lil's nephew Chris. Auntie Lil with her comical dialogue and sense of bravado comes to the rescue. After all, she is a film star herself! The clues point to firecracker gangs and a gambling group, as Lil and her sidekicks traverse Chinatown and other environs of San Francisco. The characters' dialogue is often light-hearted, but I'm not sure that younger children will get the subtleties and the many characters may be confusing. Although the pace is fast moving, the abundance of dialogue make this a difficult read-aloud. 1999, HarperCollins, $14.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Laura Hummel
Child of the Owl
Yep's award winning dramatic prose draws older readers into the complicated life of a young teenage girl in Chinatown during the l960's. This intergenerational story is part of Yep's award winning Golden Mountain Chronicles. This compelling first person narrative is spun by Casey, and easily draws older readers into her life in Chinatown of San Francisco in the l960's. Chinatown is a new world for Casey. When her father, Barney, ends up in the hospital, Casey is sent to live with her grandma. Casey is not familiar with her Chinese history. She must now attend Chinese school, eat strange Chinese food and live among people who rarely speak English. Slowly Casey's grandmother, Paw-Paw, reveals their family history and tells Casey her true Chinese name. Readers will identify with Casey and her struggles and will be moved as Casey makes room in her heart for her Chinese grandmother and her Chinese history. Yep's book is an ALA Notable Book, A School Library Journal Best Book and also won a Jane Addams Book Award. 2001, HarperTrophy, Ages 10 up, $6.95. Reviewer: Sue Reichard
The City of Dragons
Illustrated by Jean Tseng and Mou-sien Tseng
"Once there was a boy with the saddest face in the world." Master storyteller Yep weaves this tale about a small boy whose face is so sad it makes everyone around him unhappy. So he runs away from home so as not to bring grief to his parents. From such a dismal beginning this little protagonist (whose face is never revealed in the Tseng's colorful illustrations) goes on to wondrous adventures in magical settings, encountering giants, elephants, dragons and more. He does it all with great dignity, and with the saddest of faces, but in the end, as we see, what you look like sometimes has nothing to do with who you are. 1995, Scholastic, $14.95 and $4.99. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
The Cook's Family
Robin Lee is watching the destruction of her family due to the conflicts between her Chinese mother and her mainstream American father. Her mother feels compelled to honor her Chinese heritage by helping her brothers start a business. Robin's father resents the time spent away from the immediate family. Robin feels out of touch with her Chinese heritage. When she visits Chinatown with her grandmother, the two are adopted by a cook at a local restaurant. They become an imaginary family and Robin learns to appreciate her heritage and feel part of her Chinese family. The story is interesting and easy to read, but as the plot unfolds, it becomes too simple. The happily-ever-after ending is too easily achieved. A sexual reference in the fifth chapter is neither necessary nor appropriate for children. 1998, Putnam, $15.95 and $3.99. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Karen Porter
Hiroshima : A Novella
I was a young girl when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in August of 1945. I remember the fear and the question rattling around in my head, Why? Why did we do this? Hiroshima does not answer this question but it relates the events as I remember them. Weaving the events around two sisters, Riko and Sachi, gives readers a sense of being there. This well written book should stimulate discussion on the horrors of war and the need for world peace. 1995, Scholastic, $9.95 and $2.99. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: Leila Toledo
The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung : A Chinese Miner
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng
This story is told by a ten-year-old boy born in China in 1851. "Runt" as he is affectionately nicknamed, is the youngest son of a poor family and is sent to California to work with his uncle in the gold mines. Wong Ming-Chung tells a poignant story as he keeps a daily account in his journal of life before and after this journey. He writes "America is so lovely-and yet so frightening." America, referred to as the Golden Mountain, holds the hopes and dreams of many families from diverse lands and cultures. Wong has his dreams and his story offers an opportunity for children of one culture to empathize with children of another. Reader will stay engaged in Wong's journal--a story that is full of wonder, adventures, and life changing experiences. This is one in the "My Name is America" series of historical fiction for young people. 2000, Scholastic Inc., $10.95. Ages 8 to 14. Reviewer: Kathleen Orosz
The Khan's Daughter : A Mongolian Folktale
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng
From the pen of Laurence Yep comes this retold Mongolian folktale of a prophecy, a poor shepherd's son, and the daughter of the great Khan. The Tsengs' illustrations, brilliantly colored and splashed with gold, are dazzling. Yep's text, for the most part, is well-paced, and the story makes its points on both courage and gender most effectively. Be aware that this is not the book to persuade your kid to eat sesame seeds. 1997, Scholastic Press, $16.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Lady of Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South
The setting for this Scholastic "Royal Diary" is Southern China, A.D. 531. Author Laurence Yep recreates the life of an intriguing historical figure, the Lady Ch'iao Kuo. This fictionalized account, written in diary format, chronicles the adventures of the fifteen-year-old princess of the Hsien tribe, who becomes a liaison between her own people and the local Chinese colonists. About his decision to write about the Lady, Yep writes that, "The official Chinese histories are usually concerned with the crimes and achievements of emperors so it is remarkable that the Chinese historian, Wei Cheng, dedicated almost four pages to the Lady of Ch'ial Kuo." Yep's entries chronicle the Lady's role in a war in which she uses both brains and brawn to resolve the violent conflict. At times, the entries seem more intent on educating the reader about early Southern Chinese culture than on expressing the young woman's thoughts, reflections, and motivations. Overall, Yep crafts a rich portrait of a remarkable adolescent girl and her times that would make a good addition to a history or social studies curriculum. The book includes background material, including photographs and maps. 2001, Scholastic, Ages 12 up, $12.95. Reviewer: Elizabeth Marshall
Bobby and Teddy are not particularly close friends, but the tie that binds is blood--they are brothers. Teddy decides to get his "wonderful" brother Bobby a birthday present that he is sure to dislike. What a surprise, Bobby is thrilled with the baby alligator. It is a pet that creates quite a bit of turmoil in the family. As the brothers are drawn to the baby gator and have to defend it against the family and their slightly nutty landlord, they learn a lot about themselves and each other and finally become friends. It is an amusing story of sibling rivalry within an extended Chinese family; a tale that will appeal to boys and girls. 1997 (orig. 1995), Hyperion, $13.95, $13.89, and $4.50. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
The Lost Garden
This is Yep's own story of his childhood in San Francisco. He worked in his family's grocery store and grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood. He always felt more American than Chinese. His efforts at coming to terms with his heritage will be instantly recognizable by many of today's youth. His references to family members who appear in disguised form in his other books will make you want to read those again. This is not just a Chinese-American tale; it is a universal story for every age. 1996, Morrow, $14.98 and $4.95. Ages 11 up. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
The Magic Paintbrush
Illustrated by Suling Wang
This is a story about a boy named Steve who owns a magical paintbrush. Everything he paints becomes real, and now he and his grandfather can have anything they wish for. Along the way, Steve discovers it is not always desirable to have all of your wishes granted. This book is well written and is highly recommended for students who enjoy fantasy or science fiction material. 2000, HarperCollins, 89p, $13.89. Grades 3-7. Reviewer: Curtis Stahnke
Although ballet means everything to 11-year-old Robin Lee, she is forced to give up her lessons. Her parents need every cent they can save to fulfill their long held dream of bringing her grandmother over from China before Hong Kong becomes part of the communist mainland. Robin is determined to maintain her skill by practicing alone and with friends, but it is difficult. It is even more difficult for her to hide her resentment and get along with her grandmother when she arrives and is moved into Robin's room. But after discovering a secret involving Grandmother's injured feet, as a result of being bound, they gradually come to understand and care for each other. 1996, Putnam, $15.95 and $3.99. Ages 10 to 13. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
Thief of Hearts
This entertaining middle grade novel focuses on Stacy, a young girl with a Chinese American mother and a European American father. After her parents ask Stacy to help a young Chinese immigrant adjust to an American school, the Chinese girl, Hong Ch'un is accused of theft. Ashamed and angry, Hong Ch'un flees to Chinatown. At school, the other children accuse Stacy of being a "half-breed" for siding with Hong Ch'un. Hurt and unsure of her own identity as a Chinese American, Stacy goes with her mother and her great-grandmother to find Hong Ch'un. Shocked by the changes in Chinatown, Stacy's relatives talk about the way things used to be and Stacy gains a new understanding of her own family's history. They find Hong Ch'un and return home to find Stacy's father pollinating the cherry trees in the neighborhood by waving a cherry branch in the wind from the roof of their house. This quirky moment symbolizes her father's search for home and heritage by growing things. In one night, Stacy gains a greater understanding of her own identity and learns to value the importance of her family's past. The following day, she and Hong Ch'un entrap the real thief and begin to build a new friendship. An absorbing book that sometimes becomes too didactic, this novel demonstrates Yep's ability to weave cultural history, mythology, family relations, and an entertaining plot together into one well-crafted story. 1995, HarperCollins Publishers, $14.95 and $4.95. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewers: Alexandria LaFaye
Tree of Dreams : Ten Tales From the Garden of Night
Illustrated by Isadore Seltzer
A collection from the world's literature of ten stories (eight to ten pages each) involving dreams or dreaming. Each story begins with a color illustration and a short introductory paragraph. This is a great bedtime book that all members of the family will enjoy. 1995, BridgeWater Books, $13.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: A. Clayton
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