Study Guide


By Laurence Yep

Dragonwings Introduction

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.

What is Dragonwings About and 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.

Dragonwings Resources


All Things Dragonwings
This site provides a directory for all things Dragonwings Want to know more about abacuses?

San Francisco Museum's Site for the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
Complete with a timeline, eyewitness accounts, and the mayor's "shoot to kill" proclamation.

The Great 1906 Earthquake
A site with overview information on the earthquake and fires, plus an image gallery, and a list of interesting facts.

The Wright Brothers
Check out the Smithsonian Museum's virtual gallery of the Wright brothers' early gliders.

Historical Documents

Eyewitness Accounts
The San Francisco Museum provides eyewitness accounts of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Newspaper Announcements of Fung Joe Guey's Flight
These real newspaper announcements from 1909 are pretty awesome if you want to learn about the actual man who's flight was the inspiration for Dragonwings.

"Chinaman Builds Aeroplane"
The NY Times provides a copy of their 1909 article on Fun Joe Guey.

Chinese Exclusion Act
The manuscript of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.


Chinatown in 1900
Some old footage of San Francisco's China town in 1900.

Interview with Yep
What got Laurence Yep into writing, you ask? What does his voice sound like? Find out here!

Tour of San Francisco
Some amazing old footage provides a video tour of San Francisco comparing the city in 1905 to the city in 1906, following the earthquake.

Children of Chinatown, San Francisco
A slideshow of images from the Library of Congress showing children in Chinatown between 1850 and 1925.

Quick Video on the Wright Bros
So that's what Yep means by bottom wing…


Barbara Allen Song
This is the Barbara Allen song that Miss Whitlaw sings. It does exist!


Stage Adaptation
A photo from the Berkeley Repertory Theater's adaptation of Dragonwings. Check out that Dragon King!

The Author
A photo of Laurence Yep

The Chinese Exclusion Act
A 19th century cartoon of Uncle Sam kicking a Chinese immigrant out of the US.