Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books


Spring 2001 Picture Books
Ages: 6 - 9 yrs.
Author: Yin
Illustrator: Chris K. Soentpiet
ISBN: 0-399-23227-3
Hardcover Price: $16.99
This grandly-conceived and beautifully-illustrated oversize picture book merits praise and the widest possible readership. It tells the epic tale of the role that unskilled Chinese laborers played in the building of our transcontinental railroad. Through the story of two young brothers, Shek and Wong, who leave Canton, China in the mid 1800s because of a famine and their family's desperate need for money, we make the two-month crossing by ship to San Francisco, join them in the grueling work of slamming sledgehammers into spikes to lay the rails, and feel their loneliness and isolation as they are discriminated against and paid lower wages than white workers. The text is simply and movingly written; the pictures are little short of breathtaking. Oversized virtuoso watercolors, they are teeming with people, with scenery, with the life of the camps, with the dangers of the terrain. Considered "coolies," a Chinese term for the lowest of unskilled laborers, they were not even allowed to attend the celebration when Irish rail-layers from the East met the mostly Chinese workers from the West at Promontory Summit, Utah. It is a gripping story, magnificently illustrated--a book not to be missed.
Selma G. Lanes   ©2001 Parents' Choice

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