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Chu Ju's House

Chu Ju's House

4.6 16
by Gloria Whelan

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One girl too many . . .

When a girl is born to Chu Ju's family, it is quickly determined that the baby must be sent away. After all, the law states that a family may have only two children, and tradition dictates that every family should have a boy. To make room for one, this girl will have to go.

Fourteen-year-old Chu Ju knows she cannot allow this to happen


One girl too many . . .

When a girl is born to Chu Ju's family, it is quickly determined that the baby must be sent away. After all, the law states that a family may have only two children, and tradition dictates that every family should have a boy. To make room for one, this girl will have to go.

Fourteen-year-old Chu Ju knows she cannot allow this to happen to her sister. Understanding that one girl must leave, she sets out in the middle of the night, vowing not to return.

With luminescent detail, National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan transports readers to China, where law conspires with tradition, tearing a young woman from her family, sending her on a remarkable journey to find a home of her own.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 14-year-old girl experiences hardships while growing up in China during the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. "Facing one test of courage after another, Chu Ju emerges as a heroine worthy of the rare and coveted rewards she ultimately receives," said PW's starred review. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
This story takes place in China of the last decade, the principal theme being the difficulties for a family that has two daughters. When Chu Ju's little sister is born, the grandmother threatens to destroy her, so Chu Ju runs away from home, hoping that her disappearance will allow the baby sister to survive. At this point, the story becomes a journey of adventure and growth. She finds work on a sampan, gutting and cleaning fish. Next she works as a silk worker, but it is an abusive situation where the business owner takes advantage of the cheap labor of orphans from a nearby orphanage—girls again. Finally, she finds refuge on a farm where the son of the family is yearning for city life; he hands over the farm work to her, allowing him to leave his loving mother behind as he seeks his fortune. Chu Ju eventually tells the truth to this woman, who accepts her as her own child, and Chu Ju returns to tell her real family that she is alive and doing well. It's a relatively simple story, with a view of the Chinese countryside and conditions of life in modern, changing China—perhaps only for those readers with a strong interest in the subject. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, HarperCollins, 230p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
In present-day rural China, Chu Ju is thirteen when her baby sister is born. By law, her parents are permitted only two children; they will never have the honor of a son. When Chu Ju overhears them planning to send the baby to an orphanage so that they can try again, she decides to run away. Chu Ju lives with a family of fisherman on a great river and works at a silkworm farm before finding a new home tending a rice paddy with the elderly Han Na and her son. When Quan leaves his mother behind for the big city, Han Na finds comfort in Chu Ju, who works very hard and reads Quan's letters to her. Chu Ju also befriends Ling, a neighbor who reads forbidden books and is full of new ideas. Chu Ju even makes the terrifying journey to Shanghai to pay the fine when Quan is imprisoned for lack of a work permit. When Han Na's health fails, she wills her land to Chu Ju so that she will always have a home, after making her promise to visit her family to ease their worry over her disappearance. This fast-paced, suspenseful story is told by an appealing protagonist. The reader is exposed to multiple facets of Chinese life, including the ongoing struggle between traditional and modern ways. From the beginning, it is easy to care about Chu Ju, and the happy ending is only what she deserves after her hard work, kindness, perseverance, and courage. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, HarperCollins, 240p., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Angela Carstensen
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In present-day rural China, 14-year-old Chu Ju's mother gives birth to her second child, another girl. When her grandmother makes plans to sell the baby, Chu Ju decides to leave home. Perhaps then her family will keep little Hua and her parents will try again for a boy. After finding work on a sampan and becoming like a daughter to the fisherman's wife, she tells her story, and the woman is so horrified that she wants her to return home immediately. Forced to move on once more, the teen ends up in the household of Han Na, whose son wants to leave the rice paddies and go to Shanghai. Here Chu Ju proves her worth, making the paddy more productive using modern techniques she learns from her neighbor and friend Ling, caring for Han Na as she becomes increasingly weak, and rescuing her unfortunate son from jail in the city. Finally, having achieved a sense of self-worth, she goes back to see her family, but only to visit as she has made a life on the land bequeathed to her by Han Na. Whelan skillfully shows the mixture of past and present that is characteristic of rural China. She conveys the feelings of a nation on the brink of change, a country whose young people are trying out new ways of doing things, yet are clear about what traditional values are important to retain.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fourteen-year-old Chu Ju makes the wrenching decision to leave her peasant farm home and baby sister in post-Cultural Revolution China in order to give her parents one last chance at a pregnancy and a yearned-for son. She embarks on both a physical and self-actualizing journey. Over several years, the bright, already plucky teen finds assorted jobs, hardships, friends, acceptance, and, finally, the peace that comes with recognizing that she made the right, albeit painful, choice and forged a new life for herself. Told in very spare first-person, Chu Ju's journey becomes one for readers as well. Here they will meet a way of life not often portrayed in stories for the young. Readers, too, will readily accept Chu Ju's choice and be satisfied with the ending, in which she finds true love and inherits the titular house from a woman who loved her as her own daughter. Well-done and convincing. (glossary) (Fiction. 10-13)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chu Ju's House MSRChapter One

It was the fifth day of the fourth moon, Tomb Sweeping Day, which some call the Day of Pure Brightness. It was just such a day, for the spring sky was bright blue and the fields of ripened winter wheat shone gold in the sun. All across the hills you could see villagers like ourselves making their way to their ancestors' graves.

I ran ahead on the goat path, happy to leave the village where it was all houses and people. The sweet smell of wild roses followed us up and down the hills. I loved the upness and downness of the hills. On this day I thought hills were the best idea of all.

"Chu Ju," my grandmother called, "you are like a wild dog let loose. Have a little dignity."

Nothing I did pleased my nai nai. I slowed my steps, as was proper for so solemn an occasion. We would ask of our ancestors the thing we had asked in the village of the palm reader and of the astrologer. It was the thing that was talked of in our home day and night, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in angry shouts. Often Nai Nai would look sharply at me as if it were all my fault, and often I felt it was.

We passed a small house where azalea bushes grew beside a pigpen. I took Ma Ma's hand and pointed out the pink piglets rooting among the pink blossoms. Ma Ma stood beside me smiling. The baby was due any time, and I guessed she was happy to rest for a moment.

Ba Ba paused to admire some rows of new corn. My father was a doctor, but his parents had been farmers and he had been a farmer until the government had taken their land and joined it with other farms to make a big farm. When his parents protested, they were punished and sent away tothis place where we now live. Ba Ba had only been a small child then, but he remembered the farm and took great pleasure in anything that grew. That is a thing I have from Ba Ba.

"It is a good year for the corn," he said. He grinned at me. "Your little pigs will grow fat."

Below us the houses became small. The river, the Gan Jiang, curled around the village like a silver ribbon. Overhead soared a great ying, with its dark wings and white breast.

At last we came to the place where our ancestors were buried. The graveyard was small, with only three tombs. Ba Ba had planted a pear tree beside each tomb. The white pear blossoms drifted down like snowflakes, covering the graves. A little bird with an orange head peered at us from the top of one of the trees. Its song was like the gu zheng, the lyre, with its sweet sound.

During the years of war and revolution the people of China had been blown about like autumn leaves, settling now here, now there. With many tears they had left the graves of their ancestors. Few people could afford a trip of a thousand kilometers to return to those tombs. Nai Nai said it was the disgrace of all those untended graves that caused our country so much sorrow.

I had come to this resting place of our ancestors many times and knew the names on the stones by heart. I had seen the places set aside for my nai nai and my ma ma and ba ba and for a son if there should be one. I was saddened that there was no place for me. One day I would marry, and when I died I would lie with my husband in some distant place.

I was seven when Ye Ye died. I came with Ba Ba to find a suitable location for my grandfather's grave. Ba Ba brought with him his bamboo divination blocks, which would help him discover the most auspicious place, the place with the best feng shui. If your ancestors were displeased with their burial place, they could be mischievous and cause you trouble. Nai Nai had been unhappy with the site Ba Ba had chosen for her husband, but then Nai Nai was unhappy about everything.Unlike Nai Nai, who could only see that I was not a son, Ye Ye had been kind to me and would pick the bits of meat from his rice and put them in my dish. When Ye Ye became sick, my ba ba prescribed a certain kind of snake for him and Ye Ye gave me bits of that cooked snake. For days I thought I felt it slithering about in my stomach.

As a special treat Ye Ye would take me with him to fish in the river. First we would catch grasshoppers for bait. Once I caught a cricket, but Ye Ye shook his head.

"Not a cricket," he said. "At night the crickets sing away the darkness." He wove a small bamboo cage for the cricket and put it beside my bed. "Now you will have only pleasant dreams," he promised.

We sat by the river, Ye Ye with his long bamboo pole and I with my small one. Together we would watch the barges make their way down the river. "There is no end to where the river can take you and no end to the wonders it can show you," Ye Ye said. "The river is not like a road that comes to an end. It goes to the great river, the Chang Jiang, and from there to the sea, the hai, and from there to another hai."

Ye Ye became silent, and I saw that he was on the river and floating toward the hai and from one hai to the next and from one wonder to an even greater wonder.

Once we saw a dead man strapped onto a raft floating down the river. I cried out, but Ye Ye said, "It is nothing more than a death custom that some practice. It is not for me, for I must be buried in the place my son will choose, but I would not think it a bad thing to travel forever on the river."

Chu Ju's House MSR. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Gloria Whelan is the bestselling author of many novels for young readers, including Homeless Bird, winner of the National Book Award; Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect; Angel on the Square; Burying the Sun; Once on This Island, winner of the Great Lakes Book Award; and Return to the Island. She lives in the woods of northern Michigan.

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Chu Ju's House 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Book is soo good you just can't stop reading it!!! Chu Ju has great bravery i admire very much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
overall i loved this book i could not put it down
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. I was a little confused is it set in modern times? does that really happen? to they ship their daughters off just because they are not sons? Chu Ju is such a loveing sister and a wonderful woman. Though if Ni Ni were my grandmother I would flip out on her big time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book a lot. You will like it. It is an adventurous, exciting story by Gloria Whelan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good. It showed choices that people have to make--and the consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad. I can relate to this, because I am Chinese. I can remember Mama telling me stories about how people discriminated girls because of their gender. I also enjoyed this book because it showed caring and love. Chu Ju loved Han Na(Hannah?)and eventually got her land. It was interesting how Gloria Whelan set the story up--Chu Ju's nai nai was going to sell Hua, but Chu Ju was strong and loved Hua. Chu Ju is a perfect example of bravery, caring, and determination. BRAVO!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Apears can i do anything to help with this army thing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Luckly she is alone bad news is i cant fight with you......go to Naplo res all her name is Fionna i am locked out because i was banned anyway just drain her powers here....hands him a small needle put it in her neck it will drain her powers now go!
Louisie More than 1 year ago
I don't think this author knows how to write a bad story!  She is amazing and so is this book.  She teaches you about a culture, while also sharing the story of amazing characters.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanna be a mod! Break da pots!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really liked this book!!!!!!!!!!
Betsy44 More than 1 year ago
I love all of Gloria Whelan's books that I have read so far; including Chu Ju's House. It gives insight into another culture and is good reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a well written book especially if you like historical fiction but i would recommend this book to anyone!!!!!!!!! :)