School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 2-4-- Norman Ah Sing, a young Chinese man, leaves his homeland for the Land of the Golden Mountain--San Francisco. Within a year, he has established a successful grocery store. For the New Year Celebration, he organizes a Dragon Parade and a feast to share his customs with the people of San Francisco. A footnote gives a synopsis of the Lunar New Year and states that ``Norman Ah Sing organized the first big celebration,'' in 1851. With this implied factual basis for the story, the omissions and half-truths combine to present a superficial picture. While there were certainly opportunities for hardworking and prudent men to make money in those heady Gold Rush days, it seems as though Norman, said to have left his homeland due to hard economic times, was able to establish a well-stocked grocery store upon arrival. How did he pay for it? Where did he get the supplies? Some of the problems are the fault of Tseng's illustrations, which, while attractive, are sometimes implausible. Chinese women are pictured twice as richly dressed, and in the banquet scene one is chatting companionably with an elegant white woman. Chinatown in 1851 was a bachelor society. The rare wife would have shielded herself from the public, and it is unlikely that she would have sat willingly among non-Chinese. And how did Norman, immersed in the insularity of Chinatown, learn to set a table with knives and forks? He also serves a ``whole fried chicken,'' something even today's deep fryers would find challenging. Even young children deserve an accurate historical background for their stories. --Carla Kozak, San Francisco Public Library
Hazel RochmanThe forms and traditions of the Chinese New Year are explained in a fictionalized biography of immigrant Norman Ah Sing, who came to California from China in the 1850s and started the first big New Year's festival with its Dragon Parade. The writing style is purposive and condescending ("Norman thought and thought . . . There was so much to do!"). But Chin is honest about the hardship of the early immigrant experience, even as he talks of celebration and new beginnings. When the Land of the Golden Mountain turns out to be just the dusty dirt roads of San Francisco, Norman overcomes his disappointment, opens a grocery store, and then persuades the Chinatown community to invite everyone to a huge New Year's festival. Chin describes the excitement of preparation, and its fufillment in parades and parties, fireworks and feasts. He also explains the special meanings of all the rituals and symbols, including the belief in the strong, benevolent dragon that brings peace and good luck. The color illustrations are lively, and the attractive cover shows a powerful dragon bursting its frame. This is part of a new multicultural series about holiday celebrations, Stories of America.
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