Sun is ready to leave his village in China for America, the place known as Gum Saan, Gold Mountain. His father warns him, though, that passage will not be easy. Because of the 1882
Chinese Exclusion Act, new immigrants like Sun are detained at Angel Island until they are called to take a difficult oral exam before they can "land" - leave Angel Island and go ashore. On the boat, Sun had studied maps of his village and memorized facts about his ancestors. But as the weeks pass in detainment, the map's compass points swirl in his memory, and Sun worries that he will lose his direction and be turned away.
The oil paintings are rich with historical details in this vivid recounting, based on the author's father-in-law's experiences, of a disturbing chapter in Chinese American history.
In this picture book from the team behind Nim and the War Effort, aimed at older readers, comes a detailed, often moving story of immigration at Angel Island, based on the experience of the author's father-in-law. At Sun's 12th birthday celebration, his father, a merchant who owns an imported foods store in San Francisco, informs the boy that the two of them will soon be leaving their Chinese village for America. Here Sun will go to school and work at his father's store. Before they depart, a tutor prepares Sun to correctly answer the questions American immigration officials will ask, to prove Sun's identity. "One wrong answer, and you might be sent back to China," his father warns. The purpose of these interrogations becomes clear when Sun, separated from his father upon their arrival, learns from other young detainees that some Chinese families send boys to the U.S. who falsely claim to be sons of returning merchants or American citizens, to gain entry into the country. (In a concluding note, Lee fleshes out the historical background of these "paper sons.") The author builds suspense as Sun stumbles several times during his interrogations, and provides a rare glimpse into the challenges posed for Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century. The spare, though occasionally wooden, earth-toned pictures convey the Chinese landscape as well as the interiors of the ship and detainees' quarters. Ages 8-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.