Books by Laurence Yep

Released: March 15, 2016

"The story positively vibrates with fun. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
Following A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans (2015), the saga of Miss Drake, a dragon living in San Francisco, continues as she tries to train her pet human in the ways of magic.Read full book review >
Released: March 10, 2015

" Delightful whimsy. (Fantasy. 8-12)"
This comedy starring a 3,000-year-old dragon and a scrappy little girl takes young readers into a fantasy world situated right next to ours. Read full book review >
CITY OF DEATH by Laurence Yep
Released: Feb. 5, 2013

"A tongue-in-cheek ramble with frequent opportunities for derring-do and a multitude of supernatural entities more colorful than dangerous. (afterword) (Fantasy. 10-12)"
The world turns out to need saving from more than just one menace in this conclusion to Yep's teeming and polymythical fantasy/alternate history/quest/rescue/coming-of-age epic. Read full book review >
DRAGONS OF SILK by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 13, 2011

"An interesting glimpse into a little-known aspect of Chinese history and culture and a fitting conclusion to an epic series that began in 1975 with the Newbery Honor-winning Dragonwings. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)"
Silk, an ancient legend and family history tie several generations of formidable females together over three centuries in this conclusion to Yep's monumental Golden Mountain Chronicles. Read full book review >
CITY OF ICE by Laurence Yep
Released: June 1, 2011

"Readers who enjoy inner conflicts, barbed dialogue, casts replete with supernatural creatures and fantasy epics that don't take themselves too seriously will find it a treat. (afterword, bibliography) (Fantasy. 10-12)"
The chase after an evil sorcerer who is gathering up the scattered parts of a scarily powerful magical bow continues in this sequel to City of Fire (2009). Read full book review >
THE STAR MAKER by Laurence Yep
Released: Jan. 1, 2011

In the way that young children often do, when pressed by his bullying older cousin Petey 8-year-old Artie boasts that he'll provide the whole family with firecrackers for the upcoming Chinese New Year. Firecrackers are expensive, and he quickly regrets the promise, but Petey won't let him forget it. Uncle Chester, like Artie, is the youngest of his generation and has also been the target of a little bullying. He has yet to achieve financial independence, wasting too much time and money betting on horses and enjoying the camaraderie of a vividly depicted 1950s-era San Francisco Chinatown. Chester tries to help Artie out by spending time with him, but he also begins to enjoy the company of a young female shopkeeper, a relationship the child at first regards jealously but then accepts because of its positive effect on his beloved uncle. Reminiscent of Tomie dePaola's 26 Fairmount Avenue books, this brief tale tenderly portrays a large, loving extended family and presents a rich multicultural theme and an engaging plot for middle-to-upper-elementary readers. (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
CITY OF FIRE by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

Set in an alternate 1941 in which there's no world war and humans share the world with hordes of imps, trolls, shapechangers, gods and every other type of creature that Yep can conjure from world mythology, this opener to a planned City Trilogy pits a squad of unlikely allies against bad guys with a shadowy but ominous agenda. Banding together after surviving an evil dragon's smash-and-grab theft of an ancient artifact from a San Francisco museum, young orphan Leech joins belligerent preteen aristocrat Scirye, along with Bayang (a dragon in disguise) and two other nonhuman sidekicks in a long chase to Hawaii—where, with help from the volcano goddess Pele, they barely escape a tsunami-sized trap as the villains wing away with a second artifact. The chase goes on, heading for the icy North. The author's consistent habit of freezing attacks for exchanges of threats or banter turns most of the action scenes into leisurely set pieces, but such scenes follow one another in quick succession in this plot-driven tale, and the cast is as engaging as it is diverse. (Fantasy. 10-12) Read full book review >
AUNTIE TIGER by Laurence Yep
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

After telling her squabbling daughters not to let in strangers, Mother goes to the village, but what should appear but a smiling, kerchief-clad tiger pretending to be "Auntie"? Big Sister detects Auntie's tiger-like characteristics, but stubborn and lazy Little Sister foolishly believes that the visitor is bringing good things to eat and opens the door to the wily tiger, who eats her. Quick-thinking Big Sister devises an ingenious way to kill the tiger and rescue her younger sister, paving the way to the usual happy ending. Lee's paintings depict a fantastic forest and interior scenes with details of rural Chinese dress and household furnishings, the human and animal characters displaying animated movements and cartoon-like expressions. The jacket flap notes that Yep has "adapted a Chinese tiger version" of "Little Red Riding Hood," but there are no substantive notes of the tale's provenance. The award-winning author's style adapts well to the brevity and pace of a traditional story, and this humorous take could well be a lead-in to the darker and far more intriguing Lon Po Po. (Picture book/folktale. 5-8)Read full book review >
DRAGON ROAD by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Yep adds to his ongoing Golden Mountain Chronicles with this absorbing tale of a basketball team that leaves San Francisco's Chinatown to barnstorm across California and the West in 1939. Lured by the chance to show off his basketball skills and earn steady money, as well as to break away from his alcoholic father and economically depressed community, Calvin joins a newly organized squad dubbed the Dragons, which sets out in a battered jalopy on a relentless tour of small-town gyms and halls, playing both local teams and such historical legends as the Harlem Globetrotters. Series fans will enjoy this new encounter with Cal and other characters who have made previous appearances in various volumes. The author also injects plenty of game action—though what comes across most vividly through the Dragons' ups, downs and eventual return to San Francisco is the pervasive prejudice against minorities that they encounter, the harsh but sometimes exhilarating experiences of life on the road and most especially the central importance of cultural and family ties. (Historical fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2008

Historian Kathleen S. Yep teams with her uncle Laurence to craft a compelling tale based on transcripts of his father's 1922 immigration interview. The Yeps relate the harrowing experiences of ten-year-old Gim Lew, who, after crossing the Pacific with his father, is interned on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, where he must submit to lengthy detailed interviews about his home, village and neighbors, in order to prove he is who he claims to be. To pass this detailed interrogation, he has conscientiously studied a family book containing specifics about his home: How many windows in your house? How many steps? How are the houses in your village arranged?, etc. To enter "The Golden Mountain," he must answer the questions perfectly, leaving no room for doubt by the immigration officers. The boy's frustration and anxiety rise from the page, as does this particularly xenophobic and unjust moment in U.S. history. Fiction based on facts and the authors' smooth narration vividly evoke the past and its inhabitants. (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 17, 2006

Returning to the charm of the first installment, Yep finishes Tom's tale with more sweetness than adrenaline. Tom, partly a tiger, is reluctant caretaker for the prematurely hatched baby phoenix, who shouldn't have been born before the world achieves peace. His slapdash but loyal family led by Mr. Hu is joined by a plethora of magical creatures based satisfyingly on ancient Chinese lore; other mythological creatures fight for monstrous Vatten, who wants to use the phoenix's powers to make the sky fall. Tom must fight the temptation to use the phoenix for good, which would inevitably lead to power hunger and the slippery slope towards evil. Similarities to Lord of the Rings are not unwelcome. Battle scenes are factual, if a bit dry, but Tom's negotiation of cerebral vs. emotional instincts, and his ever-increasing tenderness towards his "child," is touching. Here be monsters, but never too harrowingly. A nice choice for sensitive readers. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: April 4, 2006

Eight-year-old Henry Travis and nine-year-old Chin, son of the family houseboy, experience the events of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that destroyed both the Travis's wealthy home and the Chin's tenement apartment. Yep intersperses the fiction of Henry and Chin's experiences with short chapters of facts about the earthquake and subsequent fire. This is a timely reminder of a historical disaster that turned over 2000 acres of city into a wasteland. Each chapter is headed with a time and place to help less than proficient readers keep track of the narrative strands. Simple sentence structure and the use of present tense throughout make this a very accessible introduction. With little character development, the focus is on the what rather than the who. Still, this is solid historical fiction full of details about the times and backed up with an afterword explaining the author's connection and suggesting sources for further reading. It is notable especially for the attention paid to the experience of San Francisco's Chinese immigrants, and a good choice for reluctant readers. (Historical fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2005

Offering less action than its predecessor, this middle episode in a creative yet gentle series is so calm it feels diluted. Mr. Hu—a tiger guarding the phoenix egg from evildoers—shared his soul with Tom at the end of Book One, but Tom's shift towards tigerness is slow. Hu, Tom, and their friends leave San Francisco and head underwater to the supposedly safe dragon kingdom. A mysterious "Nameless One" threatens, but Mistral the dragon and Tom defeat it anticlimactically. One friend's betrayal while Hu lies in a drugged sleep is predictable; more affecting is Tom's reluctant agreement to truly take over as the egg's Guardian. Instead of the quotations from ancient Chinese lore Yep first used to form creatures, here he uses descriptions of (real) underwater life. Visuals are colorful but logistics vague. The third entry promises a huge battle, with Tom becoming more of a tiger; this one on its own is static. (Fantasy. 9-12)Read full book review >
SKUNK SCOUT by Laurence Yep
Released: June 1, 2003

To ten-year-old Teddy, camping can take a hike, as it were, especially when he has to go with his science whiz, know-it-all younger brother Bobby and bumbling Uncle Curtis. Nature's a bore to Teddy. Give him a triple feature and the sights, sounds, and smells of his neighborhood, San Francisco's Chinatown, any day. Yet surprises are in store for doubting Teddy. He learns a lot about himself and his uncle and actually develops an appreciation for nature—although not the skunk that ends up in the trio's tent at the climax. There's enough for young readers to appreciate here. It's a quick, painless read and offers up gentle humor. Bobby really is a know-it-all, though, and will strike many readers as too good and too knowledgeable to be entirely credible for his age. A minor effort from Yep. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

This colorful fantasy seamlessly weaves ancient Chinese mythology into the contemporary city of San Francisco. Twelve-year-old Tom Lee, who lives with his grandmother, arrives home one day to find an old man with furry ears opening his door for him. The man turns out to be a tiger, Tom's grandmother turns out to be a powerful magician guarding a world-changing object, and Tom himself turns out to bear a sudden burden of responsibility. Thrust quickly into a skirmish, Tom barely has time to ask what's going on before he and the tiger are escaping onto the roof with the magical object while his grandmother remains inside to fight monsters. Her death is shocking but helps Tom begin to understand how important the object must be. A phoenix egg disguised as a cheap coral rose; the object holds the power—in the wrong hands—to flood the world with chaos and destruction. Mr. Hu, the tiger, has now become its Guardian, and Tom his apprentice. A dragon, a golden monkey, and a flying yellow rat join their forces, employing both enchantments and wit as their task takes them underwater, underground, and finally into another realm. Chapter-beginning quotations about the relevant Chinese mythology and its creatures give the story a deep, archetypal element. Near the end, Mr. Hu shares his soul to save Tom's life; what Tom will be like as part tiger, and what the monsters will try next to procure the object, must wait for the second entry in this simultaneously gentle and suspenseful series. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2003

Yep lays down another course of his now monumental, seven-generation family chronicle begun in Dragonwings (1975) with this tale of two Wyoming Territory outsiders—one an illegitimate white child, the other a US-born son of a Chinese coal miner—who witness the Rock Springs massacre, one of the most savage race riots in our history. In alternating chapters (and typefaces), Joseph Young, or "Precious Light" as his father insists on calling him, and Michael Purdy, the washerwoman's son, track rising tensions between the town's Chinese and non-Chinese residents, as they themselves forge a secret, uncertain alliance in a fossil-filled cave they dub Star Rock. As hostile confrontations and public rallies gradually escalate into an all-out, armed assault on the Chinese camp, Yep methodically exposes the ugliness of racial hatred, with characters on both sides justifying irrational stances fueled by fear, misdirected anger, malicious intentions, and misunderstanding. Star Rock isn't the only sign that better relations are possible, however, for to his astonishment, Michael finds his previously intolerant mother sheltering Joseph and his father from the general slaughter until they can flee—and the tale ends with both families about to re-connect in San Francisco. "You have the right dream," a wiser Joseph tells his father Otter (protagonist of Dragon's Gate [1993], and here a reviled, steadfastly pacifistic adult). "There just have to be more of us making that dream happen." Yep caps his strong, chilling story with a historical afterword, then maps out his saga's past and future episodes. Essential reading for all students of America's complex history and culture. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2001

A story taken from real life provides the foundation for a tale of healing through human interconnection. Ursula is a ten-year-old girl with a big imagination and a love for her small Montana town, finding enough happy magic at home by leading her pirate crew in fanciful adventures in between helping her Pa at his stagecoach station. But when she survives a smallpox scare only to be left with a pitted face, vanity replaces her ebullient spirit and she won't leave her room. Pa hires Ah Sam, a Chinese cook, to help feed the passengers when the stages arrive. Her "curiosity bump" is larger than her prejudice against him, and the two soon find they share a common loneliness as well as a common love of the circus. She begins once again to help in the kitchen, although she still won't show her face outdoors. She faces a turning point, however, when a mean-spirited stage passenger harasses Ah Sam, who cannot retaliate because of state law. Ursula decides she must cheer up the now ashamed cook, realizing that they all share what Indian Tom calls "the mark" of outsiders. One kindness leads to another as Ah Sam's circus relatives arrive to entertain the town with their special magic while Ursula is enlisted to back them up with music. Yep (Newbery Honor, Dragon's Gate, 1994), has applied his considerable skills to embellish a true story into a moving parable of how people help each other overcome suffering. The simple plot uses perfectly believable characterizations to discuss deceptively complex emotions and issues for those who would mine its lessons, but Ursula's own story of healing is rewarding enough for those who read from the younger child's point of view. (Fiction. 8-10)Read full book review >
ANGELFISH by Laurence Yep
Released: June 1, 2001

Robin, a half-Chinese, half-European ballet student, gets a lesson in modern Chinese history from a victim of the Cultural Revolution. In this new entry to the ballet series that includes Ribbons (1996), The Cook's Family (1998), and The Amah (1999), Yep continues to explore the disjuncture between modern Chinese-American children and their heritage. When narrator Robin breaks the window of a tropical fish shop, she goes to work there in order to pay the replacement cost, fitting in work between school and rehearsals for her ballet school's recital of Beauty and the Beast. The irascible manager of the shop is quite lame, but mysteriously knowledgeable about ballet for all his scorn of "bunheads," and Robin soon learns that Mr. Cao was once Communist China's most accomplished dancer, only to fall victim to the Red Guard's brutality. Robin's growing respect and affection for the old curmudgeon is set against the story of Beauty's love for the Beast—a hackneyed device, and one that intrudes onto the narrative development of this intergenerational friendship. The story moves along at a brisk clip, comic moments sliding occasionally into slapstick, and then taking a turn to the serious—the relationship between Mr. Cao and Robin's Russian ballet teacher is a truly touching meeting of battle-scarred Cold War veterans. Ultimately, Robin is herself relatively uninteresting, and the cultural tensions she alludes to never really come across to the reader. It is, nevertheless, an agreeably undemanding read with lots of ballet detail and peopled with memorable secondary characters. Middle-graders could do much worse. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
DREAM SOUL by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 30, 2000

Yep (Cockroach Cooties, p. 394, etc.) draws from his own family history to create an intriguing story, again utilizing narrative to explore conflicting cultures. Joan, the eldest of three children, is increasingly frustrated as a first-generation American of strict Chinese parents. It is December 1927 when she and her younger siblings convince their father to give Christmas a chance. They devise a contest: all the children must be good for the three weeks leading up to the holiday. It is the new neighbors, the fabulously exotic and wealthy Mr. Barrington and his daughter, Victoria, who act as catalyst to Joan's open rebellion. Christmas is apparently lost. Joan's father is also becoming increasingly ill with crippling stomach pains. Eventually the Barringtons show themselves to be double-dealers and with Father bedridden, Joan realizes her deep love for him and the sacrifices he has made for his family. Desperately seeking a way to help him, Joan refers to a Chinese tale he has told her and comes to believe that her father is ill because his Dream Soul is lost. She trudges through the snow, calling to his wayward soul and comes to believe she's found it. When Father begins to heal, she's not certain if it is the return of his soul or a change of diet based on learning that it is milk his stomach can't stand. Infused with warmth, Christmas is seen through the eyes of those who have never before experienced the beauty of the tree and the joy of exchanging gifts. Despite Yep's distracting use of italics for spoken English, this is a smooth, tightly woven, and thoroughly satisfying story. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
THE AMAH by Laurence Yep
Released: June 1, 1999

Revisiting characters from The Cook's Family (1998), Yep again explores personal and cultural conflicts arising between the generations in a Chinese-American family. Suddenly saddled with caring for four younger siblings after a wealthy businessman hires her widowed mother as a governess—or amah—for his daughter, Stephanie, Amy Chin is forced to miss several ballet rehearsals for Cinderella, to listen to glowing accounts of Stephanie's sophistication, and to accept expensive clothing and other gifts from her. While gaining new insight into how Cinderella's stepsisters must have felt, Amy's understandable resentment is compounded by the news that Stephanie will be moving in while her father is away on a trip. Yep builds that feeling to fever pitch, then dispels it by casting Stephanie as a lonely child hurt by one parent's death and the other's neglect; becoming friends, Stephanie and Amy clear the air and mend some fences with their well-meaning parents in a climactic face-off. The characters, most of them familiar from previous appearances, are distinct if not particularly complex, the San Francisco setting is vividly drawn, and the issues are laid out in plain terms and tidily resolved. It's formulaic, but not entirely superficial. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
THE COOK'S FAMILY by Laurence Yep
Released: Feb. 23, 1998

In a poignant sequel to Ribbons (1996), two strangers comfort a lonely old man with a shared, ongoing fantasy. Drawn to a disturbance outside a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant, Robin and her grandmother find themselves play-acting, soothing a drunken cook named Wolf by pretending to be his lost wife and daughter. Wolf isn't fooled, but reminiscing with his "wife" and watching his brown-haired, green-eyed "daughter" dance makes him feel better, so he willingly goes along. On what becomes weekly visits, Robin receives as much comfort as she gives, for the domestic war between her Chinese mother and non-Chinese father (and the tension between traditional Chinese and typically American ideas of family obligation) has made home a hard place to be. In his characters' banter and behavior, Yep makes clear the difference between ethnic stereotypes and what is simply common—and when Wolf's real daughter, an illegal immigrant living in San Diego, puts in a surprise appearance, her loud, nasty rudeness casts an ironic light on Robin's efforts to be more "Chinese" for Wolf, i.e., silent, obliging, and submissive. Yep sensitively explores the complexities of immigrant culture from several points of view, creates an appealing, diverse cast, and gives his plot both a memorable premise (drawn, as he explains in an afterword, from actual incidents) and a strong, bittersweet ending. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 31, 1998

It sounds like a flimsy excuse, but for young Jim it's literally true: An imp really does eat his homework, as well as gets him into further trouble with his mother, his father, and his teacher in Chinese school. Why? Because Jim's ever-crabby grandfather is the reincarnation of legendary imp-fighter Chung Kuei, and the newly escaped imp—with four arms and red eyes, and invisible to everyone else—is bent on avenging centuries of persecution. Once Jim overcomes his reluctance to ask "Grandpop" for help, a wild chase through San Francisco's Chinatown ensues, marked by pratfalls, chaos, and transformations. At last Grandpop corners the imp, drives it into a frenzy with a barrage of corny jokes and insults, then stuffs it into a silk pillow. Yep (The Dragon Prince, p. 1316, etc.) telescopes the plot severely; he occasionally checks the pace long enough for a peek into a sweatshop, or a conversation about the younger generation's drift away from traditional culture. Still, readers will not be able to put this light, funny fantasy down. (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 30, 1997

The subtitle says all: A dragon ambushes a poor farmer and promises to eat the unfortunate man unless one of the farmer's seven daughters marries him. Six daughters run away in fear, but Seven can't bear to see her father suffer and consents to marry the dragon. Seven is not afraid of the dragon; she finds him beautiful and tells him so. At that the dragon transforms into a handsome prince and the two are very happy together until Seven begins to grow homesick. During a visit to her family, her real troubles begin—one of her sisters is jealous of Seven's match. She gets rid of Seven and returns to the prince in her sister's place, but the prince's heart is not fooled. Yep tells the tale with colorful descriptions and repeated refrains, while Mak's splendid, realistic paintings, in dark jewel tones bordered with white, extend the text elegantly—the scene of the dragon flying over Chinese tile roofs is especially beautiful. (Picture book/folklore. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 31, 1997

Yep (The Khan's Daughter, p. 68, etc.) launches the Chinatown Mystery series, set in modern San Francisco's Chinatown. Hired to design a float for the Chinese New Year parade, the colorful character actress Tiger Lil sweeps up from Beverly Hills, overawing her 12-year-old namesake, called Lily, with the force of her personality and exaggerated tales of classic stars and movies. Despite a recent rash of gang robberies, prominent landlord H.T. Wong and his wife allow their daughter to wear a fabulously valuable pearl necklace in the parade; though the masked thief who snatches it eludes Lil and young Lily, a series of clues and encounters soon leads the two sleuths to Happy Fortune, a sweatshop owned by none other than the Wongs. Along the way, young Lily (and readers) learn that Chinese culture and language are not monolithic, but full of regional and class variations; Yep also tucks an indictment of sweatshop practices into the story—to the extent that readers are likely to feel satisfaction when, at the end, Tiger Lil palms one of the recovered pearls for the exploited sweatshop workers to sell. Though the plot is built around coincidence, the lively characters and a well-drawn setting rescue it; presumably the many dangling threads will be sewn into future episodes. (Fiction. 10-12) Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1997

Yep (The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes, 1994, etc.) extends his series of picture-book retellings of Asian folktales with this Mongolian story of a poor young shepherd who wins the hand of the Khan's daughter through dumb luck and the smitten maiden's collusion. As is usual in such stories, there are three impossible tasks to be accomplished before the hero, Mîngke, may wed lovely Borte. He vanquishes seven gruesome demons, frightens off an enemy army, and, in a trial suggested by Borte, "conquers" Bagatur the Clever and Mighty (actually his bride-to-be disguised as a warrior) by surrendering the instant he is endangered. The high-spirited story is ideal—barring a few awkward phrases—for reading aloud. The Tsengs' vibrant watercolors bring the windswept Mongolian steppes and the proud luxury of the Khan's court vividly to the page. The jacket art is especially striking: A montage of acrylic on gold leaf shows Borte in a bejeweled headdress, Mîngke astride his sturdy pony at full gallop, and the wind-whipped banners and embroidered felt tents of the Khan's realm. (Picture book/folklore. 7-10) Read full book review >
RIBBONS by Laurence Yep
Released: March 19, 1996

Her demanding ballet teacher believes that Robin Lee has real talent, but it's unlikely that she'll be able to develop it soon. Every penny her family can scrape up has to be saved to bring Robin's grandmother from China to the US—an obligation that Robin's mother sees as almost sacred—so Robin's lessons are scrapped. When the crotchety old woman arrives, she quickly establishes herself as the center of the Lees' universe. A frustrated Robin dutifully practices her ballet exercises on her own in the garage, but the combination of ballet shoes that have grown too small and a lack of formal instruction results in little progress and increasingly deformed feet. Her anger builds until the day she finds her grandmother soaking her hideously misshapen feet, which were bound in her youth. The sight sobers and humbles Robin utterly and marks the beginning of a touching and beautiful bond between the old woman and the young one. Yep (Hiroshima, p. 642, etc.) creates an elegant tale of love and understanding with an upbeat resolution that will please the most demanding readers. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
LATER, GATOR by Laurence Yep
Released: May 8, 1995

Teddy's younger brother, Bobby, is kind, helpful, and loving; Teddy therefore does what he must to make Bobby's life miserable. But all that trusting innocence has a way of taking the fun out of the meanest pranks. When Teddy buys his brother an alligator for his birthday, Bobby loves his new pet and is infuriatingly grateful. All too aware of Teddy's real motives, the boys' parents are determined to get rid of the alligator. For once, the brothers are on the same side, and Teddy comes to recognize his real affection for his young sibling. This amusing, occasionally didactic, story is good fun for younger readers. While most of the peripheral characters are ciphers, Bobby is affectingly genuine; Teddy, though initially detestable, becomes more likable as the story progresses. An entertaining ending is marred by an afterword expounding the villainy of mistreating pets, but this remains an interesting slice-of-life portrait based in San Francisco's Chinatown. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
HIROSHIMA by Laurence Yep
Released: May 1, 1995

Though deeply felt, a choppy, confusing account of Hiroshima's destruction that reads like a set of preliminary notes. Mixing tenses and cutting back and forth between the Enola Gay's flight and the activities of two Hiroshima teenagers, Riko and Sachi, Yep sets the scene in very general terms, describes the bomb's immediate and lingering devastation, then closes with quick looks at the Cold War, Sadako Sasaki's story, a 1985 peace march, and related topics. Yep has done his homework, appending four pages of adult sources, but he barrages readers with raw numbers; the significance of repeated references to an unnamed Japanese colonel exercising his horse on the day the bomb remains unclear; Sachi (who doesn't leave her home for three years after the bomb and eventually becomes a "Hiroshima maiden," one of a group of disfigured survivors sent to the US for restorative surgery) is a composite character with only a rudimentary background or personality. As 1995 will mark 50 years since the bomb was dropped, new materials are needed to join Eleanor Coerr's Sadako and the Paper Cranes (1977) and Toshi Maruki's horrifying Hiroshima No Pika (1980); this offering is unlikely to lead the pack. (Fiction. 10- 13) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 20, 1994

A three-year drought is upon the land. The merchant Yue heads south to sell his goods. He encounters an ogre who stirs a memory for Yue: that once he was advised to help those in need. Yue buys the man a meal, then five more helpings. Needless to say, the ogre turns out to be a junior thunder lord and repays his debt to Yue in spades. Yep's (The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes, p. 76, etc.) tale is fun, the action swift, illustrated with a highly stylized, bold hand, but it stumbles on an important point: Without the ogre/lord's payback, the narrative would have little bite, so the idea of goodness for goodness' sake goes begging. Kept at the level of one good turn deserves another, however, things clip merrily along, and everyone's happy in the end. Van Nutt's wild paintings, breathless compositions that bring an alien landscape to life, give a welcome sense of humor to this moral tale. (Folklore/Picture book. All ages) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Puzzlingly described as an "original folktale" (LC classifies it in 398.2), the bizarre story of Little Chou, a poor Chinese boy who finds, hidden in a basket of silver, an evil ku snake that kills people and takes their money to its master. When the snake proves indestructible, Little Chou swallows it in hopes of being rid of its evil, but that night a mysterious light emanating from his stomach becomes two ku snakes, which he also resolutely eats. The next night there are fifty dancing, luminous snakes, then a hundred, and finally so many that it appears that "the stars had fallen from the sky and emptied into the courtyard." When the greedy master of the original ku snake comes to reclaim his abandoned "pet," Little Chou tricks him into eating it and the man dies horribly. Good and evil receive their just deserts in this cautionary tale, but the snakes are a grotesquely ambiguous symbol, described as lethal yet also beautiful and almost innocently playful (in the end, Little Chou actually misses the creatures he's been at such pains to destroy). Further, the story's logic collapses at a crucial juncture: why, if the rich man was so fearful of the ku snake that he tried to get rid of it, would he wish to reclaim it when it had multiplied a thousandfold? The Tsengs' watercolors range from exotically colorful to murkily mysterious, with the characters' expressions and poses dramatically exaggerated. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >
THE GHOST FOX by Laurence Yep
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

Familial relationships are exquisitely rendered in this supernatural story drawn from a 17th-century collection by Chinese scholar Pu Sung-ling. After Little Lee accidentally bumps a stranger on a street while carrying cargo to his father Big Lee's ship, Big Lee sails away, promising to return by the New Year. Tension builds as the stranger, a "young gentleman in a red robe," follows Little Lee and his mother to their home. Scratching sounds are heard in the night; the shadow of a fox passes before Little Lee's bedroom window; but as long as the doors stay bolted, the boy and his mother are safe. But one night after the two, exhausted, have forgotten to lock the doors, the ghost fox enters, hungry for souls. The Tsengs' pen-and-ink illustrations evocatively capture 17th-century Chinese dress and architecture, while Yep's narrative depicts the dauntless triumph of good over evil with eerie grace and humor. (Folktale. 7+) Read full book review >
DRAGON'S GATE by Laurence Yep
Released: Oct. 30, 1993

Yep illuminates the Chinese immigrant experience here and abroad in a follow-up to The Serpent's Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985). After accidentally killing one of the hated Manchu soldiers, Otter (14) flees Kwangtung for the "Golden Mountain"; he finds his adoptive father Squeaky and Uncle Foxfire in the Sierra Nevada, where thousands of "Guests" are laboriously carving a path for the railroad. Brutal cold, dangerous work, and a harsh overseer take their toll as Squeaky is blinded in a tunnel accident, Foxfire is lost in a storm, and other workers are frozen or half-starved. By the end, toughened in body and spirit, Otter resolves never to forget them or their sacrifices. Foxfire and Otter consider themselves only temporary residents here, preparing for the more important work of modernizing their own country while ridding it of Manchu, Europeans, and, especially, the scourge of opium. America is a dreamlike place; English dialogue is printed in italics as a tongue foreign to most of the characters; and though Otter befriends the overseer's troubled son, such social contact is discouraged on both sides. In a story enlivened with humor and heroism, Yep pays tribute to the immigrants who played such a vital role in our country's history. Explanatory note; reading list. (Fiction. 11-14) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 20, 1993

"Drawn from the writings of Chuang Tzu [fourth century B.C.],...the Butterfly Philosopher," a tale that explicates the idea that wisdom may lie in an altogether fresh point of view. The first part of the story is somewhat confusing: "a boy...dreamed he was a butterfly, and, as a butterfly, he always dreamed he was a boy." His literally acting like a butterfly causes "trouble"—when he tries to fly above a buffalo, he lands on its back and is carried off; when he's hungry, he astonishes bystanders by sucking a flower's nectar. However, like a butterfly, he doesn't mind derisive laughter, and he has a special understanding of natural beauty—and also of an invading army (he imagines it to be a centipede) and its warlord, whom he sees as a beetle on its back (the insulted lord lets him go as "either madman or a prophet"). When lord and army perish, the Butterfly Boy is suddenly revered, "but praise meant no more to him than insults." In Lee's spare, carefully constructed paintings, figures are stylized and the butterfly's alternate visions appear in insets. Not easy or entirely successful but, still, a philosophic tale with worthy and venerable roots, certainly worthy of discussion. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Sung is a man so brave that he thinks nothing of walking home at night, despite his friend's warning. Accosted by a ghost (none of your flimsy European wraiths—this huge, solid-looking warrior has a fiercely craggy visage and "antique armor made of rhinoceros hide with metal scales"), Sung boldly claims to be a ghost, too. Undaunted by the ghost's mission—to scare or kill the overcourageous Sung, whom he doesn't recognize—Sung tricks him at every turn, even getting the ghost to confide that "once we are spat upon we cannot change our shape"—a useful bit of information that in the end not only saves Sung but enriches him. Yep's simple, lively narrative perfectly suits an entertaining trickster tale that, he notes, dates in written form to the third century; Seltzer matches its energy and humor in vibrant, freely rendered paintings that will enthrall listeners as much as the spooky, funny story. A winner. (Folklore/Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

A beautiful woman with the power to transform herself into a seashell outwits the evil king who commands her to abandon her husband and marry him instead. When Shell refuses, the king imprisons her husband and demands that Shell obtain for him three wonders as ransom, including luck by the bushel. Fortunately, he neglects to specify what sort of luck; and when Shell brings him a large, fire-eating dog, the king and his magnificent palace are destroyed. Thus evil is unequivocally punished, but—in contrast to most Western fairy tales—the heroine reaps no extraordinary reward for her courage and conjugal loyalty; presumably, defying a rapacious monarch and surviving are enough. Yang's watercolor-and- ink paintings capture the tale's beauty and violence in tones ranging from misty gray-blue and shell pink to fiery coral, crimson, and jade. An unusual touch is the subtle, gray damask patterning providing a textured background for the type. (Folklore/Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
Released: June 30, 1993

A much-needed (if uneven) collection of stories and poems plus an excerpt from a one-man show, developed while Yep taught in Asian-American studies at the University of California. Most of the authors will be unknown to young people; notable are Maxine Hong Kingston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. The pieces are grouped by theme: the dilemma of identity; parents; WW II and Japanese-American experiences; attitudes toward love; relationships with grandparents. While the focus is generally on young Asian-Americans living in two cultures, the point of view is most often adult and retrospective. Most memorable may be Lensey Namioka's Emma Wu, a high-school math whiz whose chief competitor offers to take her to a prom if she'll drop out of a prestigious statewide competition. Steve Chan-No Yoon's "Stop Light" describes a fantasy date in delightful detail, while William F. Wu's "Black Powder" addresses family traditions in a futuristic space station. An afterword and brief bibliography suggest readings in Asian-American history and literature plus materials with guidelines for evaluating stories about Asian- American children. (Anthology. YA+) Read full book review >
DRAGON WAR by Laurence Yep
Released: May 30, 1992

Fourth (and last?) in the saga of dragon princess Shimmer's struggle to restore her lost home: At the end of Dragon Cauldron (1991), Shimmer, the Monkey wizard, and human child Indigo were captured by the evil Boneless King, while selfless human Thorn became part of the Cauldron so that it could restore Shimmer's Inland Sea. Now they escape to help the dragons overcome the Boneless King, who's borne to the beginning of time by Shimmer's suddenly repentant renegade brother. Thorn, restored, is revealed as the throne's lost heir; Indigo becomes a dragon; and the Monkey cartwheels away on new mischief. Yep's vivid—and occasionally bizarre—characters and images are powerfully imaginative, a welcome respite from sword-and- sorcery stereotypes. Watching them bicker while snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is entertaining, while the breakneck pacing never lags. Not for every reader, but destined to be a special favorite for a few. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
TONGUES OF JADE by Laurence Yep
Kirkus Star
adapted by Laurence Yep, illustrated by David Wiesner
Released: Oct. 30, 1991

An award-winning author presents a second gathering of folktales as remembered by Chinese immigrants to California. Like those in The Rainbow People (1989), these were collected in the 30's as part of a WPA project and originally appeared in a book entitled The Golden Mountain. Yep arranges them into broad subject areas, prefacing each section with a brief discussion of how the tales illustrate aspects of Chinese culture that would be important for an immigrant (either returning to China or staying "in the land of the Gold Mountain") to remember. The collection as a whole is informed by the idea of jade as preserver: hence, a storyteller's jade tongue preserves a heritage. Many of these 17 stories are unfamiliar. Yep's retellings maintain their freshness and vitality; his essays are cogent introductions to the cultural values portrayed, reinforcing connections between story and birthright. Wiesner provides handsome b&w watercolors, enhancing the attractive format and making an intriguing visual hook for each story. Once again, as entertainment and enrichment, a bravura accomplishment. (Folklore. 8-12) Read full book review >
THE STAR FISHER by Laurence Yep
Released: May 20, 1991

The author of Dragonwings (Newbery Honor, 1976) draws on his mother's childhood to depict a Chinese family's experiences when they arrive from Ohio to open a West Virginia laundry in 1927. Eldest child Joan Lee is 15; unlike their parents, she and her siblings were born in the US and speak English. Their first two encounters set up the difficulties they will face and how they will be countered: when they step off the train in Clarksburg, ne'er-do-well bigots greet them with cruel taunts; but their landlady, a retired schoolmistress, warmly welcomes and befriends them. Still, "The Star Fisher," a Chinese folk tale Joan shares with her little sister, symbolizes Joan's position even after she gains acceptance: like the child of the selkie-like bird-wife in the story, she sees through two sets of eyes. Yep has shaped his family's stories into a rather old-fashioned novel of small-town prejudice bowing to good will and some humorously applied ingenuity. Joan is provided with another spunky outcast as a friend; pungent family interaction and abundant period details help to complete a vivid picture. While learning to cook, Mrs. Lee bakes a series of inedible apple pies that strain credulity, but they do serve the plot well when she finally bakes a good one and makes a hit at a church social. A likable, thoughtful story about a young woman learning to value her own differences. (Fiction. 9-14) Read full book review >
THE LOST GARDEN by Laurence Yep
Released: May 1, 1991

In a strong debut for the new "In My Own Words" series, the author of The Star Fisher (see below) portrays his own youth. Brought up in San Francisco, where his parents managed for years to defend a mom-and-pop grocery against an increasingly rough non-Chinese neighborhood, Yep went to Chinatown to attend a Catholic school and to visit his grandmother. Always aware of belonging to several cultures, he is a keen observer who began early to "keep a file of family history" and who tellingly reveals how writing fiction, honestly pursued, can lead to new insights: in putting his own "mean" teacher into one book, he began for the first time to understand her viewpoint. He divides his account topically, rather than chronologically, with chapters on the store, Chinatown, family tradition, being an outsider, etc., concluding with his college years ("Culture Shock") and some later experiences especially related to his writing. Always, Yep is trying to integrate his many "pieces" ("raised in a black neighborhood...too American to fit into Chinatown and too Chinese to fit in elsewhere...the clumsy son of the athletic family..."), until he discovers that writing transforms him "from being a puzzle to a puzzle solver." A detailed, absorbing picture of Chinese-American culture in the 50's and 60's, of particular interest to Yep's many admirers or would-be writers. (Autobiography. 11-15) Read full book review >
Released: April 30, 1991

The further adventures of dragon Princess Shimmer (Dragon of the Lost Sea, 1982; Dragon Steel, 1985), who is still attempting to restore her lost home. Shimmer, the Monkey wizard, the witch Civet, and two human children (Thorn and Indigo) are all seeking the Smith and his wife Snail Woman in their fabulous flying mountain: only their old magic is strong enough to repair the fabulous Dragon Cauldron so that it can once again hold the sea and pour it back to form the dragons' home. They succeed, but only after loosing a terrible evil—the Nameless One, strongest of the wicked Kings from the past—and only after Thorn loses his human life and becomes bound in the Cauldron as its soul. Writing and images here are powerful enough for this to stand on its own; Yep's strong, earthy characters are notable as individuals even when a reader coming into the middle of the sequence doesn't know their history. Meanwhile, characters from Chinese folklore—the Monkey trickster, the dragon—continue to give this ripsnorting fantasy a special flavor. More to come. (Fiction. 10+) Read full book review >
Released: May 15, 1989

Here, the author of such sensitive depictions of the Chinese-American experience as Dragonwings anthologizes 20 folk tales told by Chinese immigrants in California. Culled from 69 stories collected in a 30's WPA project, the tales are organized into sections with themes like "Tricksters" or "Virtues and Vices," each with a thoughtful introduction placing the individual stories in the context of the feelings and background of the original tellers (most of them living in Oakland). Yep's telling is vigorous, often poetic, imbued with earthy humor and realism touched with fatalism. Most moving are a Rip Van Winkle-like tale of a man who gambles with the gods and comes home thousands of years later ("Homecoming"); and the title story, about a wanderer who sets the rainbow people free only to lose the one among them whom he's beginning to love. In his introduction, Yep mentions Kenneth Burke's description of folk tales as "strategies for living," a theme he has integrated effectively here in this trenchant tribute to the resonance of storytelling in a particular culture—a richly entertaining collection for readers and storytellers. A handsomely designed collection—Wiesner's understated b&w chapter openers are beautifully composed, counterpointing rather than competing with the stories. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 12, 1987

Another in the new Stepping Stone series: a disappointing contribution from a noted chronicler, for older children, of the Chinese. American experience (Child of the Owl, Dragonwings). Here, he essays a "horror" story about a giant squirrel that enchants Howie, one of a pack of dogs. This is neither as scary nor as funny as it sets out to be, and its short sentences result in an annoyingly choppy style. Read full book review >
MONSTER MAKERS, INC. by Laurence Yep
Released: Nov. 17, 1986

Put-upon teen-age hero wins heart of spoiled rich girl while saving planet from comic-evil alien invaders. Yep (Seademons, 1977, etc.) has been trying to break out of the juvenile/YA mold for some time, but on this and past evidence he's never going to make it. On planet Carefree, young Piper Kincaid and his father ("Dad") run Monster Makers, Inc., a genetic engineering concern that produces miniature dinosaurs, mammoths, and other specially-created creatures for fun and profit; recently, though, their business has been dogged by ill luck. When a four-foot-high godzilla escapes and rampages through a nearby swank resort, Piper goes to recapture the creature and meets Shandi, daughter of a super-rich industrialist. Together they discover that what Piper has assumed to be accidents were actually calculated acts of sabotage. The alien Xylk, you see, together with their warrior-slaves, the Rell, have established an underseas base as a prelude to invasion; too, some Xylk have disguised themselves as local life-forms, and the Kincaids have the only analyzer capable of uncovering the deception. Various complications ensue before Piper thwarts the Xylk almost single-handedly. The teen-age leads are believable enough, though Dad is a cypher, and their rocky romance is well-handled: sprightly and often amusing, then, but one-dimensional—so put this one on the YA shelf. Read full book review >
DRAGON STEEL by Laurence Yep
Released: April 10, 1985

Yep's Dragon of the Lost Sea (1982) ended with comrades Shimmer (a dragon princess) and Thorn (a boy) capturing the witch Civet, who had displaced Shimmer's clan by draining their Inland Sea. Without dropping a stitch, Dragon Steel picks up Thorn and Shimmer on their way to the dragons' undersea kingdom, where Shimmer will ask her uncle, the High King, for the magic cauldron that might help restore the Inland Sea. But instead of offering help or the expected congratulations, the High King demands Shimmer's magic pearl, then throws them in prison when she refuses him. Before they finally get the cauldron, Shimmer and Thorn must outwit the Grand Mage, evade the Dragon guard, take the form of small fish, battle creatures called Krakens, contact Shimmer's homeless people (now in thrall to the High King), obtain a flower from the dragon Lady Francolin, and take it back to Monkey (who is imprisoned in the palace), so that Monkey can summon the powerful Lord of the Flowers. There are yet more transformations, battles, and trials; and though the cauldron is obtained at last, the comrades' arrival at the Inland Lake must await another volume. Besides the string of mini-adventures, there are a couple of running questions—whether their new companion Indigo will abandon her "look out for number one" philosophy; whether Shimmer will prove up to leading her people—but their conclusions are foregone, and Yep shows no interest in exploring or developing the issues. Though Yep is as imaginative as the next fantasist in dreaming up shapes, tricks, and surprises, it sometimes seems, as Shimmer comments upon the sudden appearance of a threatening Flame Bird, that "Someone [is] working magic for no apparent reason." Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 15, 1984

Who's the arsonist on the loose in Civil War-era San Francisco? That's the mystery this time for the heroes of The Mark Twain Murders—journalist Mark Twain (the very same) and the 15-year-old urchin/narrator who calls himself "the Duke of Baywater." The Duke, hungry and prowling around warehouses for valuable trash, witnesses an explosion at a chemical factory; the only clue is a nearby van bearing the name of a photographer. So when the fire attracts newsman Mark Twain to the scene, the co-sleuths again team up, with assistance from mustachioed fireman Tom Sawyer. They're just in time to see another fire break out during the parade welcoming a star-actress ("the Pritchard") to the local theater. And, just by coincidence, the theater's tart/sweet old costume-lady, Letty Cleary, has a connection to the mystery-photographer—who seems to be planning bigger, more dangerous fires, aimed at San Francisco's pro-Union establishment. Could it possibly be, then, that the arch-villain is once again Major St. John, the Confederate spy who plotted to rob the San Francisco Mint in The Mark Twain Murders? Yes, indeed, the presumed-dead Major—"so cold and calculating that he was beyond maean"—is still alive, posing as a photographer, and up to no good. He captures the heroes briefly, coolly kills dear Letty. (Her death is a little disturbing in such a light, comic-booky caper.) Escapes, gun-waving, and another capture ensue—as the heroes chase the Major through a society costume-ball. But, though locked up in a burning room, the good guys escape again. . . in time to defuse all the arsonist's infernal contraptions. As before, Yep gives the real Mark Twain little color or substance; the Tom Sawyer character is lackluster too, with no kinship to the fictional lad. (According to the foreword, there was a real S.F. fireman who claimed to have inspired Twain's creation.) But this less elaborate sequel is another bright, quick, folksy adventure—at its best in the period touches, especially the firefighting details. Read full book review >
LIAR, LIAR by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 14, 1983

A proficient suspense story with a contemporary Silicon Valley setting, bright authentic teenage dialogue, realistic family characterization, and a tight progression of detection and rising tension. Very early, Scan is a passenger in his friend Marsh's car when Marsh is killed in an accident—but Seen, the only kid at school who seems to care, suspects that the spill wasn't really an accident. Narrowing down a list of the people the trouble-making Marsh had played practical jokes on, Sean soon focuses on Russ Towers—a grim man with "radar eyes" who has caught the two boys letting air out of his Porsche tires. (It was Marsh's idea, as always.) Classically, no one credits Sean's suspicions, and though Marsh's sister Nora helps him at first, she joins the chorus recommending a shrink after heating about Sean's past troubles with the law. The story ends with Seen home alone, Russ breaking in with an icepick, and the two engaging in an extended battle that will keep readers on edge through a profusion of rounds and reversals. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1982

Yep turns to pure fantasy in this story of a several-hundred-year-old dragon princess traveling the land with a young orphan boy. The two befriend each other on first encounter when he is ridiculed for seeing a unicorn and she is disguised as a helpless old woman. Soon they are up against a common enemy and fleeing together as the dragon, Shimmer, takes her true shape and carries Thorn, the boy, on her back. Despite Shimmer's contempt for humans, she allows Thorn to accompany her in pursuit of Civet, a witch who has stolen the dragon tribe's inland sea. Thereafter Thorn is determined to prove himself useful, Shimmer continues to insist regally that she needs no such help, and each saves the other's life several times over. Their quest takes them into the ever-denser forest of the wicked Keeper, who battles them in midair with his monstrous pets and a magical burning net. Outdoing the keeper, they make their painful way across the dragons' old dried-up salt seafloor; battle Civet's tigers inside the Weeping Mountain; and finally defeat the witch with a hair from the tail of that Chinese folk hero Monkey—but then take pity on the culprit, and spare her, when they hear her story of betrayal. Yep does not appear to have any compelling reason for bringing these two together and putting them through this course, which borrows elements from Chinese legend (as he explains in a note), but seems well within the mode of our juvenile fantasies, even to the motif of the reluctant developing friendship. But for fanciers of fantasy as travelogue of enchantment, there are descriptive passages of spotlight intensity and an overlay of visual embroidery—plus attention to the protagonists' physical sensations, including those involved in the process of changing from human to dragon form. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1982

Narrated by a 15-year-old San Francisco urchin who likes to believe that his real father was an English lord and he himself is the Duke of Baywater, this tells of a two-day 1864 adventure shared by the alleged Duke and the young reporter Mark Twain, who sets out to investigate the murder of the Duke's low-life stepfather and ends up—with the army, navy, and police as well as the Duke at his side—chasing Confederate mint robbers as they attempt to escape by sea. At one point Mark and the Duke are kidnapped and ordered killed, at another they are chased by the armed robbers they are chasing, and there is much shooting and more gun waving throughout. Mark's increasingly important news story involves more murders, disappearing corpses, multiple identities, and a plot which, if successful, could defeat Lincoln in the national election. But because of his reputation for hoaxes in previous newspaper jobs, neither the local police nor his editor at the Call will believe Mark's reports or take his warnings seriously. When at last they do take notice (Mark gets a little help from the respectable Bret Harte), Mark's story is squelched for reasons of national security. Despite some bits about the Duke admonishing Twain to take himself seriously, this isn't one of those famous-person novels that offers an interesting interpretation of the historic character. In fact, the major problem is that it doesn't half live up to Twain's own statements or colorful image. Rather, Yep uses San Francisco and Mark Twain for color much as Robert Newman uses Sherlock Holmes and Victorian London in his Baker Street Irregular series. This doesn't sparkle like the Baker Street books, but its plainer setting is evoked in enveloping detail, which gives the adventure a measure of tangible charm. Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 1982

There are monsters aplenty in this novel about an all-round leader type at Loyola High School in San Francisco and his relationship with Chris, an outwardly bold and nasty, inwardly insecure girl who went through parochial school with him and then to public high school. Near the start Charlie is shaken by a poison chain letter, initiated by Chris, who accuses him of smugness and insensitive meddling. When he goes over to protest, she invites him to the movie Repulsion. . . which fascinates Chris but repulses Charlie. How could anyone be so sick? Well, Chris' mother—who has tried suicide, verbally batters her daughter, and (in Chris' view) brought on her husband's fatal heart attack—comes close. You will share Charlie's horror at her trancelike but manipulative performance at a restaurant, sliding a nail file back and forth, back and forth, across the veins at her wrist. Then there is Duane, the twisted little boy hung up on Godzilla, whom Chris, becoming a "meddler" herself, tries to help—but accidentally disillusions by revealing that the monster is played by a human actor. Faced with all this, Charlie is shaken enough to recognize the "monster in the hearts of people everywhere." Kind hearts are harder to come by, but Charlie's own cold and abstract caring has been humanized as a result of his feelings for Chris; and, in return, though she seems unreachable at times, he will help her change her step from a "Godzilla stomp" to something kinder. Though this monster motif is pointed up so emphatically as to seem a calculated scheme, the scheme has its fascination and so do the floodlit characters. One never doubts their urgency, or the blood-freezing tension of their interaction. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1979

Moving from San Francisco's vibrant Chinatown to the miniscule one down in Concepcion is a drag, and Craig Chin has the added burden of being fat, slow, and clumsy when his father—once Chinatown's basketball champ and an all-city star—wants him to excel at "American" sports. Craig tries, but their practices together end badly, and his performance in schoolyard games is worse. Things are bumpy, too, with Craig's only new friends, junior high classmate Kenyon, who is sensitive about her beatnik parents' alternative ways, and wise, patient Uncle Quail, a reclusive old Chinese. (For one thing, Uncle Quail is reluctant to include "white devil" Kenyon in their private swims.) But eventually Craig is able to stand up to his father on the sports issue, and—with Uncle Quail's help—his father relents. Like Casey in Child of the Owl (1977), Craig has trouble fitting in as a Chinese American; here however the problem is mostly with others—Craig himself seems certain enough of how things should be to appear self-righteous toward his better-off, assimilated cousins. This doesn't match Child of the Owl for atmosphere or excitement, but the father-son abrasions have their own particular sting, and Craig's quieter way of groping for belonging has some of the authentic virtues of the natural environment he experiences with Uncle. Read full book review >
SEADEMONS by Laurence Yep
Released: Nov. 23, 1977

"The Folk" are a shipload of refugees recently escaped from a race of cruel masters who employed them as combat troops and kept them in a state of technological ignorance. With few resources beyond a melange of battered neo-Irish myths and a stock of advanced but irreplaceable weapons, they are trying to colonize an Earthlike new home. Ciaran, daughter of the colony's leader, heads those trying to overcome the Folk's superstitious dread of anything alien. The chief targets are the highest form of native life (the "Seademons," an octopus-like race) and Maeve, a wild human foundling popularly reputed to be a witch and certainly on terms of strange intimacy with the Seademons. Maeve's beauty leads two of Ciaran's brothers to their deaths; the entire Folk is drawn into the ensuing tragic campaign against the Seademons. Yep, author of well-received juveniles, has not previously tackled an adult novel; this one falls uncomfortably somewhere on this side of the young adult category. The emotional range is truncated, and much of the dialogue is pallid and soon-palling badinage. But the situation is outlined with imaginative verve, and the story is put together with confidence and smoothness. Hard to categorize, but nice. Read full book review >
CHILD OF THE OWL by Laurence Yep
Released: April 1, 1977

"I knew more about race horses than I knew about myself—I mean myself as a Chinese," says Casey, a street-wise, jeans-wearing twelve-year-old. Then her father Barney's gambling habit lands him in the hospital, the victim of a beating, and Casey is sent to live with her Paw-Paw (grandmother) in the small, tight world that was San Francisco's Chinatown during the early Sixties. Marked as an outsider by her inability to speak Chinese and, for the first time, questioning the Americanized values of friends like Tallulah "Booger" Chew (whose ambition is to design clothes for Katy Keene comics) and Gilbert, who models himself after James Dean, Casey comes to think of herself as a child of the Owl-Spirit—the family's ancestress according to Paw-Paw and the central figure of a long, dreamlike legend that has been handed down through the generations. But while the Owl-Spirit helps Casey to find her way as an alien caught between two cultures and to feel close to the mother she never knew, it is the toughness she's learned from Barney that sends her out on a hunt for the burglar who steals Paw-Paw's valuable owl charm. Visions of herself as both a Kung Fu heroine and child of the owl clash when Casey, Booger, and Paw-Paw's elderly friend, Mr. Jeh, capture the thief and are horrified to discover his identity. Yet even the surprise ending fits seamlessly into Yep's vision, which combines the chiseled fantasy of Dragonwings (1975) with the hard-edged anxieties of growing up poor and non-white in the early Beatles era. This is played out against a background of underheated walk-up flats, cheap souvenir shops, and memories of the old China where dream-souls wandered the earth at night, a beautifully transmuted Chinatown legend, and an odds-on popular favorite as well. Read full book review >
DRAGONWINGS by Laurence Yep
Released: Sept. 1, 1975

"And the dream that becomes the plane Dragonwings lifts this into a world where truth and imagination are one."
In the beginning, all is strangeness to Moon Shadow as he leaves the Middle Kingdom to join his father in the Land of the Golden Mountain. . . only to end up in the Tang people's quarter of San Francisco where the drunken "demons" often beat up Tang men and his uncle Black Dog, an opium smoker and a crook, keeps the family all too involved with the brotherhoods. Read full book review >
SWEETWATER by Laurence Yep
Released: May 1, 1973

Shimmering like the star-charmed Argan music that Tyree learns from the spiderlike alien Amadeus, this is a many faceted vision of the watery city of Old Sion, planet Harmony. The Silkies, who inhabit the waterlogged buildings abandoned by other colonists from Earth, are the outcast descendants of marooned starship pilots, and just as they lost their home among the stars, they are now about to lose their homes in Old Sion to galactic tourism-promoter Fuller Satin and to the Sons of Light, a dissident Silky faction that favor the restoration of electricity and technical expertise. The "touchstone" treasured by Tyree's blind sister Caley turns out to be the ultimate instrument of Old Sion's doom, and if the plot becomes murky on this point (we never do understand why Amadeus would give the little girl such a dangerous present), Yep has set this light adventure in such beautifully evoked surroundings that we can almost hear Tyree playing his unearthly music and see the sparkling cocoon left behind by Amadeus, shining like Caley's realization that when you lose something you like, "you don't let yourself cry for long. Read full book review >