When Yao Bai’s father invites him to join an expedition to gather seabird eggs from an island off the San Francisco coast, Yao is excited for the adventure but concerned that pirates might steal their valuable haul.
Yao’s family has moved from Guangdong, China, to a fishing village north of San Francisco, and selling a harvest of the large murre eggs to hungry gold miners will help them pay their fishing taxes and send money back to family in China. Their hoard is in jeopardy, though, when, sure enough, an unknown ship sails into view. Luckily, Yao comes up with a clever plan to trick the pirates and save their eggs. Myers tells an enjoyable folklike tale that weaves in some aspects of the life and culture of Chinese immigrants during the California Gold Rush, including racism emanating from the white pirates. Pang’s illustrations, however, resemble cartoon animations, so what in real life would be a terrifying situation is reduced to a buffoonish portrayal of bad guys versus good guys. A questionable illustration at the conclusion of the story depicts Yao’s family celebrating around a small campfire with one man shirtless in the San Francisco evening weather, conjuring images of the stereotypical heathen Chinaman of the 19th century.
This clever tale with some insight into historical and cultural details of Chinese-American immigrants is sadly underserved by its lackluster illustrations. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)