Serpent's Children (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1849)

Serpent's Children (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1849)

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by Laurence Yep, Tim O'Brien

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When villagers call Cassia and her brother, Foxfire, "the serpent's children," they mean it as an insult. But to Cassia it is an honor, for legend says that once a serpent sets her mind on something, she never gives up. And in a time when famine, drought, and violence mark her family's life, Cassia has nothing less than survival to fight for.

Their father is a


When villagers call Cassia and her brother, Foxfire, "the serpent's children," they mean it as an insult. But to Cassia it is an honor, for legend says that once a serpent sets her mind on something, she never gives up. And in a time when famine, drought, and violence mark her family's life, Cassia has nothing less than survival to fight for.

Their father is a revolutionary, determined to free China from invaders. Foxfire, certain he'll find a mountain of gold, flees to a faraway land. Cassia will need all of her strength and wisdom to keep her family together, and to prove that she is truly the serpent's child.

Editorial Reviews

ALAN Review
Brilliantly captures both the culture of a nineteenth-century Chinese village and the humanity of the teenage girl who tells the story.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Golden Mountain Chronicles Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.14(w) x 7.57(h) x 0.68(d)
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

We had such high hopes when Father marched off to fight the demons. I was only eight at the time, so to me he seemed like a giant and his spear seemed to reach to the beams of the celling when I looked up at him.

"Are you sure you're going to be all right?" he asked Mother.

Mother was a small woman; but kilo for kilo she had more spirit than any of the men who would be marching with Father. She crinkled up her nose the way she did when she was happy, and she laughed at Father. "Of course--I'm fine. I just took some tonic for my cough. There's nothing quite like hairy mustard, you know."

Father nodded to the jars of herbs and flowers and other things she used in her cures. "You don't need more medicine. You just need rest. Maybe I should stay here and take care of the fields."

Mother patted Father on the chest. I know you when something important is going on. You wouldn't do any more than stroke the weeds while you waited for news.

Early that spring, when we had begun planting the first rice crop, the village had been shocked to hear that the demons had invaded the Middle Kingdom--or China, as the demons called it. A fleet of ships, lean and sleek as hunting hounds, had appeared before the great city of Canton. And from the ships' holds had poured a horde of demons and their slaves. Demons weren't especially evil, since they could do good things for a person as well as bad. But these British demons wanted to force the government to let them sell their opium here.

The barbarian Manchus who ruled our country had seemed powerless to stop the demons. And though my parents did not love the Manchus, theyloved the demons even less, so when the officials had asked the people for help, Father and Mother had decided he should go.

Father turned to my little brother, Foxfire, who was seven. Tapping a finger against Foxfire's nose, Father warned him, "Now I want you to be a regular little gallant and help your mother and big sister."

My little brother was a terrible crybaby. Mother said it was because he had a tender stomach that left him sick most of the time; but I thought he was a little monster who began crying the moment he did& get his way. I was always having to give in to him.

There were times when I felt like pushing him down the nearest well. Mother and Father seemed willing to forgive Foxfire more because he was a boy. If I forgot one of my chores, I could expect a scolding. But Foxfire could dream all day, and nothing would happen to him. Our parents would laugh at his crazy notions, and tell me to do his tasks for him.

He was so much of a daydreamer, they'd nicknamed him Foxfire after the man in the story who went chasing after the glint of gold only to find it was the magical light made when foxes comb out their tails. My parents thought it was funny when he came up with such wild ideas. But they got annoyed with me if I didn't do exactly what I was told. I was supposed to be the practical one.

I looked contemptuously at my little brother as he started to bawl and back away from Father as if Father had suddenly grown horns and scales.

"Is it the spear?" Father asked anxiously. He leaned the spear against the wall and then held out his hands. "You see? It's just me."

But Foxfire continued to cry. It was times like those that I felt ashamed and angry and ready to slap him. But Father simply swept him up in his arms and swung him high in the air, and the bawling changed to little yips of excitement.

In the meantime, Mother had turned to the table to get Father his bundle of food. Suddenly she lurched forward against the table's edge and clapped a hand to her mouth. Her body shook as she tried to stifle her cough. Alarmed, I went over to her. "Mother?"

With her hand over her mouth, she shook her head at me not to say any more. She didn't want to Father to think he had to stay. I leaned against her with my hand on her back, feeling the spasms pass through her body--almost as if I were trying to draw the spasms out of her and *into my own body by the magical touch of my hand. Father and Foxfire were still playing when the spasms ended and Mother lowered her hand.

She drew a shaky breath, testing her lungs, and then, with more confidence, drew another one. "We all have parts to play in the Work," she whispered to me.

As I said before, Mother may have been a small woman, but she was as toughand hard a fighter as

Father. She had met Father through the Work-which was what they called the goal of driving out the Manchus and restoring the country to our people. And they had both carried out missions for the band of revolutionaries known as the Brotherhood.

She stretched out her hands for the bundle of food, but I was quicker, snatching the bundle and dragging it over so I could hug it to me. I didn't want her to waste any more of her energy. "Let me carry it."

Mother affectionately drew her thumb across my cheek. "That's my little trouper." With her hand on my shoulder, we went over to Father and my little brother. "'Here," she said to Father. "We've put together a bundle of food for you."

Father's eyes widened when he saw the bundle. "But that's enough food for a campaign. You should take something out for yourself and the children...

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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The Serpent's Children 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book that was beautifully executed. I would enjoy reding this book several times more
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think people would enjoy reading The Serpents Child. The serpent’s child is a good book to teach people how to get through struggles and this book can also teach people how strong a family bond is. Also teen readers can connect with the characters because Cassia and Foxfire are growing up too. I agree with the first comment that sometimes it can be a little dry but, it doesn’t affect the overall message that the book is trying to convey. Cassia the main character can teach the reader about true struggles because throughout the whole she has to endure some of the hardest. Her mother dies and she feels a responsibility to take care of her brother and her father. Her struggle can really have an effect on the reader. For a while Cassia and her brother are all alone to fend for themselves because their father is off fighting with the work and their mother had just died. The family bond in this book is very strong because they are all they have, the town ignores them because they are said to be serpent children. When Cassia’s uncle tries to bind her feet foxfire tells them to stop and helps his sister get away even though at the time he is younger. The Characters in this book are easy for teens to connect with. Foxfire becomes a man when he chases a wild dream to help his family survive. He ventures into America or what they call demon-land to send money home so Cassia and his crippled father won’t starve. My Favorite character is Foxfire. He is my favorite character because even after his father disowns him he still risked his life across seas to save his family. He can still love his father with his foolishness and Cassia even though she was never supportive of his ideas. I like that he has inner strength because that is the best kind of strength to have. My favorite Quote is said by Cassia “Forgive me father,” I said cautiously, “but after everything he’s been through he’s not a boy anymore, he’s a man.” (Yep 273) This is my favorite quote because Cassia realizes her brothers true strength and then she stands up to her father even though she always sticks by him. She stood up to him and told him that he was wrong about foxfire and that he is a man. This quote made the lesson of the book all so clearer. It shows the importance of family and how strong the bond is even across oceans