Dragon's Gate (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1867)

Dragon's Gate (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1867)

4.0 8
by Laurence Yep

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'In rural China in 1865, 14-year-old Otter eagerly sails to California to join his father and legendary uncle on the transcontinental railroad. On a freezing, snow-filled mountain in the Sierras, Otter begins his harrowing journey toward self-knowledge. An engaging survival-adventure story, a social history, a heroic quest.'—BL. 'Told with humanity and


'In rural China in 1865, 14-year-old Otter eagerly sails to California to join his father and legendary uncle on the transcontinental railroad. On a freezing, snow-filled mountain in the Sierras, Otter begins his harrowing journey toward self-knowledge. An engaging survival-adventure story, a social history, a heroic quest.'—BL. 'Told with humanity and compassion… a tribute to the survival and courage of these immigrants.'—1994 Newbery Committee.

1994 Newbery Honor Book
Notable Children's Books of 1994 (ALA)
1994 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)
1993 "Pick of the Lists" (ABA)
1994 John and Patricia Beatty Award (California Library Association)
1994 Silver Medal for Literature (Commonwealth Club of America)

Author Biography: Laurence Yep is the author of The Imp That Ate My Homework, about which Kirkus Reviews said, "Readers will not be able to put this light, funny fantasy down." He received Newbery Honors in 1975 for Dragonwings and in 1994 for Dragon's Gate. Mr. Yep lives in Pacific Grove, California.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This 1994 Newbery Honor Book, a prequel to Dragonwings, tells of 14-year-old Otter's 1865 emigration from China and subsequent travails in California. Ages 10-up. (May)
Children's Literature
What are the hardships of being a young Chinese boy in a new American frontier during the late 1800's? What do you do when you have come from a privileged background and you are suddenly thrust into an unbearable work environment of little food, long grueling hours, and unbelievable danger? America's quest to build a transcontinental railroad is historically detailed in this fictional account of laying track across an unforgiving mountain known as "Snow Tiger." Young Otter wishes to join his father and uncle in America so he can be part of a new creation called the railroad. Forbidden by his adopted mother to join his father and uncle in the land of promise, Otter suddenly finds himself in jeopardy after encountering the combative Manchus. He arrives in America to find life is not what he thought. His uncle "Foxfire" is not the great man he thought him to be, and his once kingly father has been reduced to a groveling laborer. The intense physical labor, dangerous work, starvation, bitter cold, racial prejudice, and isolation bring the reader's senses to life. We feel Otter's desperation. Friendship and family love provide strength in this heart felt story. 2005 (orig. 1995), HarperCollins Children's Books, Ages 12 up.
—Robyn Gioia
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Yep uses the lively storytelling techniques of his ``Dragon'' fantasy-adventure novels to re-create a stirring historical event-here, the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Serpent's Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985, both HarperCollins) described the political and natural disasters that led to widespread famine in 19th-century Southern China. Cassia and Foxfire, the ``Serpent's Children,'' came from a long line of revolutionaries. Foxfire followed his dreams across the sea to the ``Golden Mountain,'' California, where he earned enough money to revitalize his village. Dragon's Gate opens in China with Foxfire making a triumphant visit home. Otter, Cassia's adopted son, who tells the story, worships his uncle and longs to follow him back to the Golden Mountain. Granted his wish at last, Otter finds Foxfire working on ``Snow Tiger,'' a mountain in the Sierra Nevada range, where Chinese laborers strive to hew a tunnel through solid rock. Appalled by the living conditions and disillusioned with his uncle, Otter must struggle to survive racial prejudice, cold, starvation, the foreman's whip, and the dangers of frostbite and avalanche while trying to reconcile his ideals and dreams with harsh reality, and to find his place in a strange land. Combining believable characters with thrilling adventure, Yep convinces readers that the Chinese railroad workers were indeed men to match the towering mountains of the west. Because the first few chapters, set in China, may be a bit confusing to children who have not read the previous two books, this will likely need booktalking.-Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Julie Corsaro
This is an engaging survival-adventure story, a social history, a heroic quest. The story opens in rural China in 1865 as 14-year-old Otter, the privileged son of wealthy land owners, eagerly sails to California to join his father and legendary uncle on the transcontinental railroad. On a freezing, snow-filled mountain in the Sierras, Otter begins his harrowing journey toward self-knowledge as a member of a crew of outcasts headed by Uncle Foxfire, a dreamer who seems to have been defeated as much by western racism as by the fears of his Chinese companions. While the long tale brings together the many hardships known to have been suffered by Chinese laborers--cold and hunger, poverty and exhaustion, maimings and death--it is leavened by some humor. The language has an appealing naturalism, and the concerns (equality, identity, family loyalty, ethnic conflict) are universally human. While the cast is large, the characterization is balanced; Yep shows that even the Irish overseer who viciously whips Otter is an idealist. This dovetails nicely with Yep's "The Serpent's Children" and "Mountain Light". A research note and scholarly bibliography are appended.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Golden Mountain Chronicles Series
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.53(h) x 1.12(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The sixth month of the third year of
the era all In order, or July 1865.
Three Willows Village, Toishan County,
Kwangtung Province, China.

"They're coming!" the servant cried from the pass. "They're coming!" The cry traveled up the valley faster than the stream.

"They're coming!" the sentry announced from the watchtower.

All over the village of Three Willows, doors and gates slammed as people tumbled into the street. It was a clear day between summer storms, and the sky was a bright blue.

In the schoolroom, I could hear the slap of their feet on the dirt. Though I was only fourteen, I sat in the back of the schoolroom with the older boys because I was ahead of my level. I rose eagerly from the school bench.

At the front, Uncle Blacky, our teacher, was lecturing about some ancient words that might occur in the government exams. The exams would qualify you for office.

He was a slender, middle-aged man in a scholar's robes. There were small black marks on his lips, for he had an absentminded habit of licking his brushes to a point. "Yes, Otter."

"Master, may I be excused?" I asked. "I think my father and uncle have arrived."

"Of course." What else was he going to say? Most of the subscription for his new school had come from my own family.

When I got ready to run excitedly, he looked at me sternly "With dignity," he reminded me. That look was enough to intimidate my other classmates, but not me.

"I'm sorry, master." I started to walk away.

Behind me, I heard Stumpy laugh. He was the sixteenyear-old son of one of our tenants, and he wasalways trying to play the bully or to mock me when he thought it was safe.

When he wasn't playing one of his pranks, I almost felt sorry for him. His father, Stony, often needed Stumpy in the fields. As a result, Stumpy's schooling was sporadic; but he was sharp enough to make up for the lost time.

Immediately, Uncle Blacky strode down the aisle and grabbed Stumpy's frayed collar. "You should thank Heaven for people like Foxfire and Squeaky. Without their sacrifices, we'd all be starving."

As he lifted Stumpy to his feet, his son, Cricket, brought him his bamboo rod. A young man in his twenties, Cricket acted as his father's assistant while he pretended to study for the government exams.

Uncle Blacky shook the boy as though he were a rat. "I'll teach you some manners, you little pig. Hold out your hand."

Reluctantly, Stumpy held out his hand, palm upward. There were two groups of boys in our school: those whose fathers had stayed here and those whose fathers had gone overseas to America to become guests of the Land of the Golden Mountain, as everyone called it. The difference was often between the poor and the rich. Since the guests paid for the school, their sons led a privileged life. The other boys, though, were fair game.

Determined to do the right thing, I turned. "It was my fault, Master. You should hit me."

"Why can't you be a gentleman like Otter?" Uncle Blacky asked. He gave Stumpy six of the best across his palm, even though I had been the insolent one.

As he sat down, I whispered, "I'm sorry."

Stumpy rested his hand on the table but would not look at me. "I'm used to it."

I felt bad because I could see some of the boys cringing -- the ones whose fathers had stayed here. Uncle Blacky might give them six for not volunteering to answer a question; or even if they did, he might punish them if he judged their response a poor one.

What do you do when your family is so powerful that you lead a charmed life and even your teacher won't find fault with you? I tried to bring candy treats on different occasions for all my classmates. The poorer boys were lucky to get a bite of meat in an entire year, let alone taste sugar. And of course, on festivals, I used my allowance to buy toys and firecrackers for everyone. So I don't think they held it against me that Uncle Blacky treated me as his pet. The other guests' sons led just as protected a life.

Despite Uncle's bamboo rod, the school began to buzz with excitement behind me. When other guests came home, there were banquets and celebrations; but none of them could match one of Uncle Foxfire's homecomings. While Father and Uncle were home, life was one long festival of banquets and entertainments and fireworks displays.

I went out of the school into the little courtyard where porcelain stools sat in the shade of a tree. The entire setting was also the result of my family's donations. My mother was generous with everyone but herself.

As I stepped into the villages main street, I met my mother, Cassia, striding along, too impatient to be carried along in a sedan chair as her sister-in-law wanted her to do. As the clan said, Mother still had mud between her toes.

Mother was tugging self-consciously at her jade necklace. It was her one piece of jewelry-and it had taken Father an entire evening of arguing to make her keep it. Her blouse and pants were clean but plain.

"Look at you." She frowned. "Dirty already." Seizing my arm, she made me stop in the middle of the street. Then, to my chagrin, she began brushing off my clothes as if I were still a child.

For the homecoming, the Lion Rock lady -- Mother referred to her sister-in-law, Uncle Foxfire's wife, only as "that Lion Rock woman" -- had insisted on new clothes for herself and her son, whom everyone called the Little Emperor. She had taken me along as well when we went to her hometown, Lion Rock, which was the market town for our area.

Dragon's Gate. Copyright © by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.

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Dragon's Gate 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i had to read this for a school assignment and i thought it would be boring at the beginning but GEESH i was anticipating what would happen next! everyone should totally read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an engaging survival- adventure story , a social history, and a heroic quest. Combining believable charcters with thrilling adventure, Yep convinces readers that th Chinese rarilroad worers were indeed men to match the towering mountains of the west. This book was also a 1994 Newberry Honor book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must read! This book tells the hidden truth behind the Chinese and the California railroad. It has so many literary elements present, the characters, the imagery-incredible! This book is a teacher's (or parents) dream for combining history with literature. It has some emotional moments as well so keep the tissue close by.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I couldn't put it down. I actually thought that I was going to hate it because I had just randomly pulled it out of a book pile in my classroom because I needed something to read. Laurence Yep really trapped me with his words. I can't wait to read more of his work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was in 8th grade, and let me tell you how great of a novel this is. The plot and story are deep and Yep does an excellent job developing them. If you're reading this deciding if you're going to read it or not, I suggest you do read this novel. After you read it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and I look for a good ending in most books I read. Dragon's Gate had it. If you're also looking for a good book to sit down and read for pleasure I suggest this also. It's easy reading with a great story.