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by Elizabeth Partridge & illustrated by Aki Sogabe

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-525-46453-0
Publisher: Dutton

This touching and pretty picture book tells the story of Jo Lee, a young boy in 19th-century China who is sent to join his uncle on Golden Mountain (the name Chinese immigrants have given to California) when a drought has brought hardship to his village. Jo Lee is miserably seasick and homesick on the long boat trip and desperately misses his mother and sister. At first overwhelmed by the strangeness of America, eventually he adjusts to the routine of the fishing village in which Fourth Uncle lives, fishing in the mornings and stomping on the shrimp in wooden shoes until they pop out of their shells in the afternoons. Even though he is so far away from his family, Jo Lee’s Hun, his dream spirit, keeps him connected to them by leaving his body every so often and traveling to China to visit and even to act as a beneficent spirit. An afterw0rd gives historical background about Chinese immigration to the West Coast and explains the traditional Chinese belief that each person has five spirits, including the Hun, which gives people courage and the ability to dream. When a person is awake, the Hun shines out of one’s eyes, but during sleep, the Hun can wander freely. The colorful and boldly graphic illustrations are formed with cut paper and watercolors. The design of the book is particularly attractive, with most pages surrounded by a duo-colored frame. The Hun is depicted by a ghostlike, yet friendly image, and the illustration of the Dragon King, sure to appeal to children, is surrounded by dramatic swirls of color. While this is a fairly rosy picture of the experience of Chinese immigration to California in the 19th century, glossing over the hardships and prejudice, the story serves as a good introduction and is also a paean to the unbreakable bonds of mother and child. Excellent for the classroom and a useful addition to any library. (Picture book. 5-8)