Book - 2001

A young boy hears the story of his great-great-great-grandfather and his brother who came to the United States to make a better life for themselves helping to build the transcontinental railroad.

Saved in:
1 copy ordered
Picture books
New York : Philomel Books 2001.
Main Author
Yin (-)
Other Authors
Chris K. Soentpiet (illustrator)
Physical Description
unpaged : col. ill. ; 25 x 30 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

Ages 5^-9. The term coolies is a racist insult for Asians in many parts of the world and was used by nineteenth-century Americans to demean the early Chinese immigrants. Yin says she is transforming the term by showing the courage and integrity of those Chinese American workers. She tells the history through the personal experience of Shek and his younger brother, who encounter harsh racism when they come to the U.S. desperate for work and get low-paying jobs building the transcontinental railroad. Soentpiet's strong, realistic watercolor paintings, in shades of blue and gold, show the bond between the brothers, as they leave family in China and later as they hammer in the rails across mountain, prairie, and desert in the West. Four years later when the railroad is complete, the Chinese workers are the only group not invited to the celebration. Shek and his brother are more saintly heroes than real people, but the American history is powerful. Yin provides notes and a bibliography for readers who want to know more. --Hazel RochmanReference Books Bulletin

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"In an impressive debut, Yin illumines a dark corner of American history-the monumental labor of the thousands of Chinese immigrants who helped build the transcontinental railroad," wrote PW. Ages 5-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-Leaving China to support their family, Shek and his younger brother travel to America, where they work building the transcontinental railroad. Known as coolies, they endure backbreaking labor, discrimination, and danger but never lose faith in one another or the promise of a better life. Arresting illustrations capture the scope and drama of the siblings' adventures. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

(Primary) A large trim size and rather ostentatious watercolors frame this tale of two Chinese brothers who come to mid-nineteenth century America to work on the transcontinental railroad. Introduced as a grandmother's reminiscence of her great-grandfather's experience, the story tells of Shek and Wong's hard voyage across the Pacific and their arduous labor for the Central Pacific Railroad company, including Shek's especially dangerous job of setting the dynamite to blast a path through the Sierras. A failed worker's strike gives the book its conscience; a blizzard gives it drama. While the textbook quality of the writing and the events make this implausible as family story, the history itself has interest and worth and is capably conveyed through the experiences of the brothers. Chris Soentpiet's three-quarter-spread watercolors have cinematic coloring and grandeur, peopling almost every picture with a cast of dozens while remaining dramatically focused on our heroes. The writing isn't really strong enough to sustain reading aloud, but the facts behind the story and the undeniable thrill of the pictures will compel interest. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

As a boy and his grandmother celebrate the Ching Ming Festival, a holiday honoring one’s ancestors, the grandmother tells the story of her great-grandfather, Shek, who came from China to California in 1865 to work on the transcontinental railroad. Shek and his little brother Wong endured the two-month trip to America and immediately signed up with the Central Pacific Railroad Company to work as laborers. The Chinese workers, known derogatorily as “coolies,” from a Chinese word meaning “bitter labor,” were paid less than their European counterparts and were often given the most dangerous jobs, those involving explosives, for example, and were forced to work in terrible weather conditions. (The author’s note informs the reader that thousands of Chinese laborers died while working on the railroad.) Shek and the other Chinese workers tried to stand up for themselves by staging a strike, but were forced to back down before any of their demands were met. Even when the railroad’s completion is celebrated, the importance of the Chinese laborers is ignored. After four years on the railroad, Shek and Wong used their earnings to open a store in San Francisco and eventually brought the rest of their family over to the US. Soentpiet’s signature glowing watercolors bathe the images with light. The pictures of big scenes—the teeming shipyard, the crowded living quarters on the ship, a campfire surrounded by snow-covered mountains, a busy San Francisco street—are striking and grand. The design—each double-page spread laid out with ¾ of the page as illustration while the ¼ on the left holds the text in a box—allows for a fuller view of the sweeping scenes. This is an important story, full of drama and emotion and it is here given its proper recognition and tribute in both words and glorious art. Perhaps it will encourage other grandparents to share their family history as well. Masterful. (Picture book. 6-10)

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.