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by Laurence Yep

Dragonwings Introduction

In A Nutshell

Dragonwings follows the young Moon Shadow Lee in his first years as a Chinese immigrant in America in the first decade of the twentieth century. The story inspired by the twenty-minute flight of Chinese immigrant Fung Joe Guey in Oakland, California in 1909.

A Newbery Honor Book, New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, and International Reading Association Children's Book Award winner, Laurence Yep's 1975 novel marks a significant contribution to Chinese American literature and young adult fiction. Dragonwings is part of a larger series called the Golden Mountain Chronicles, which also includes Newbery Honor Book Dragon's Gate. Yep holds his own as a big deal author; he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 2005 for his contribution to children's literature. Also adapted into a play for the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 1991, Dragonwings asks what it means to believe in a dream when all odds are against you.


Why Should I Care?

Picture this: you find out that you're forced to move because your parent just got laid off and found a job in a new part of the state. You're kind of freaked out about going to a new school, but you're keeping your cool. On the first day of class, you show up rockin' your Mohawk and equipped with all the latest slang from your old school. Then you step on campus, and everyone has hair down to their butts and has resurrected Latin for conversation. Everyone stops and stares at you. Then everyone comes at you with unintelligible and annoying limericks in Latin and throws garbage at you. Think that's a bummer? There's more: you have to work two jobs on top of going to school. And all the while, the teachers are encouraging students to throw bigger things at you, and you can't even tell them to stop because you don't speak Latin. And there's no internet or phones to contact any of your old friends.

OK, so that's kind of what it's like to be Moon Shadow Lee in Dragonwings, only "another part of the state" is a part of the world you've never even seen pictures of and you have never met anyone who lives there, not even your own father. If you've ever been made to feel different and weird, or been scared because you didn't know what you were doing or why people were looking at you like that, then you can relate to what's going on with Moon Shadow.

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