Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

( 2 )


Young Fu is bound for seven years to be an apprentice to Tang the coppersmith, and his new life in the Chinese city Chungking is both exciting and terrifying. Young Fu endures the taunts of his coworkers, and must live by his wits on the streets, where restless soldiers will shoot a man if he does not carry a load for them, and beggars steal from those who pass them by.

Yet for Young Fu, the pleasures of the bustling Chungking of the 1920s far outweigh its dangers. Little by ...

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Young Fu is bound for seven years to be an apprentice to Tang the coppersmith, and his new life in the Chinese city Chungking is both exciting and terrifying. Young Fu endures the taunts of his coworkers, and must live by his wits on the streets, where restless soldiers will shoot a man if he does not carry a load for them, and beggars steal from those who pass them by.

Yet for Young Fu, the pleasures of the bustling Chungking of the 1920s far outweigh its dangers. Little by little he learns the ways of the big city and plunges into adventure after adventure as he gains confidence. Who would ever have thought a shy boy from the country would stop a break-in at the copper shop or brave the dreaded Fire Demon to help a foreigner? Young Fu's eagerness to help others and his acts of courage earn him many friends, and finally, more good fortune than he ever thought possible.

In the 1920's a Chinese youth from the country comes to Chungking with his mother where the bustling city offers adventure and his apprenticeship to a coppersmith brings good fortune.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This book should sound familiar to many as it was first published in 1932 and won the Newbery Award in 1933. At the time it was one of the first books that we would now call multiethnic to win the prize, so it set a strong standard then and still continues to for today’s readers. Young Fu comes to Chungking during the 1920s to become an apprentice to a coppersmith named Yang. Like teens today, Young Fu has to try to fit in to a situation and a new city while maintaining his family relationships. More liberal thinking than his mother, Young Fu finds working with Yang to be a wonderful growing experience, although not without difficulties. Yang has high expectations for his apprentices and Young Fu must work hard to prove his worth to the talented Yang. The book reads well; the main issue contemporary readers may have with the book is that chapters tend to focus on different days or weeks in the life of Young Fu with months occurring from the end of one chapter to the next. But there is certainly enough adventure in the story to hook middle school aged readers and enough substance in the book that teachers looking for a solid multiethnic novel will be pleased, even if they were not formerly familiar with the book. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
From the Publisher

“It is a story full of adventure that I believe you will enjoy as much as I did. Young Fu won the Newbery Medal, not only because it was historically and culturally accurate, but because it was and is a really good read.”—Katherine Paterson, Newbery Award-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312380076
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: STRIPPABLE
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 270,790
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

As a young woman, Elizabeth Foreman Lewis was trained in religious education and English literature, and in 1917 she was sent to China by the Methodist Women's Board. There she studied the Chinese language and history, and held various teaching posts. After she returned to the United States, Mrs. Lewis wrote Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, her first book. She is the author of several other books for young readers. Mrs. Lewis died in 1958 at the age of sixty-six.

Ed Young was born and raised in China. At the age of twenty he came to the United States, where he studied at the University of Illinois and at the Art Center College in Los Angeles. Mr. Young has won many honors and awards for his illustrations, including the Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po and Caldecott Honors for Seven Blind Mice and The Emperor and the Kite. He has illustrated many other notable books for children, including Cat and Rat and Birches.

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Read an Excerpt

YOUNG FU OF THE UPPER YANGTZE by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

- 1 -

A City Set upon a Hill

Young Fu stood on the narrow curbing before Dai's two-storied tenement in Chair-Makers' Way, Chungking, and stared about him. In the doorway, Fu Be Be, his mother, directed load-coolies in placing the household goods which she had brought from home, and anxiously examined each article as it passed before her. A day of clattering over country roads, followed by two on the crowded freight boat, had been difficult indeed for her, but the furniture looked no worse for wear than did her son. For him the hours had flowed into the past as swiftly as the current of the river. He had been fascinated by shifting scenes and strange faces; the constant menace of bandits with which all travel was shadowed, had added its own flavor to the experience, and when at last Chungking's great walls had loomed above them, it had seemed the fulfillment of all his dreams.

He turned in the direction of a yell as one of the load-bearers lowered his burden of a pigskin trunk on the bare foot of a bystander. In a flash the two men, their faces white with anger, were after each other.

"Pig, have you no eyes?"

"And you, grandson of a two-headed dog, could you not see that trunk?"

"It is your affair, you whose ancestors for ten generations have been scavengers of the streets, to look where you place a load!"

"And it is yours, whose grandmother resembled a monkey, to move out of the way of workers!"

The carrier, unlike the Chungkingese about him, wore a queue, and the bystander stretched out a hand, grabbed the tail of hair, and pulled viciously. The queue, half of which was false hair plaited in with string, came apart in his hand and the onlookers roared. Furious with chagrin, the victim lifted his carrying pole to strike. As he did so, an unexpected clamor in the street drew everyone's attention, and the bystander seized this opportunity to lose himself in the crowd.

A handsome red wedding chair, ornately decorated with gold, rolled past. Hidden completely behind its satin-hung curtains, sat a youthful bride on the way to her new home. A long train of coolies followed the chair, swinging great, painted trays on which rested roast fowls and sweetmeats, silk bed comforts and hard, lacquered pillows, sealed boxes of clothing, and pieces of furniture—all of the contributions essential to any dowry. When the last of these had disappeared from sight, the angry carrier, who had succeeded in plaiting his queue to its original length, stooped, picked up his pole, and resumed work as if nothing had ever disturbed him.

Fu Be Be breathed a sigh of relief. After the quiet countryside, this city was providing more excitement than she could well endure, but she would have to be content for her son's sake.

Young Fu, unconscious of anything but the fact that he was now in Chungking, drew a long breath of delight. In his village men who counted it a privilege to visit this city once in a lifetime had told of its wonders.

"Miles of streets there are, lined with shops where may be purchased more than any man will ever need," he had heard the innkeeper say one evening. "The people, a hundred times ten thousand in number—so many that they are forced to build dwellings on top of one another that all may be sheltered—work at their countless trades and, when there is time for play, enjoy themselves in handsome tea houses and theaters." Here the speaker had paused in the act of serving a new customer and had gazed inquiringly from one listener to another. "When, sirs," he had demanded, "do farmers and innkeepers ever find time to play? Certainly the citizens of that place are people of good fortune!"

A true saying! For Chungking, built high above the waters that swept about its feet, was distinct in its position of port city to all of this far, western world. To the west and north towered the frozen Himalayas and mysterious Tibet; to the south, trade routes, centuries old, connected it with Indo-China, Burma, and India; to the east, its main artery of life, the Yangtze-kiang, flowed tortuously for fifteen hundred miles before it reached Shanghai and the coast and emptied its muddy stream into the blue Pacific.

And, ancient and gray, Chungking opened its gates to let the tides of commerce flow in and out, never failing to reach for the choicest prizes and hug them to itself. Wealth it had, wealth that was reckoned enormous even in Szechuen, this the richest province in the Middle Kingdom, and poverty such as only an overpopulated Chinese city can know. Young Fu's pulse quickened; he, Fu Yuin-fah, at the age of thirteen was already here, standing on one of its streets and watching coolies carry familiar household possessions into the room in which he and his mother would live.

That Fu Be Be did not share his enthusiasm, he knew. For weeks she had wept over the idea of leaving the farm land where she had spent her lfe. But with her husband's death, she had not known in which direction to turn for help. Her father-in-law had died years before, and there was no other member of his family on whom she had a claim. Tilling the ground offered in these troubled times a secure living to no man. As for a widow and a growing boy—she clicked her tongue in dismay.

And then, when the future had seemed darkest, the Head of the Village told her of an opening for an apprentice with one Tang, a coppersmith of Chungking, and, at her request, letters had been exchanged and her son accepted. A life in Chungking was not what she would have chosen for either of them, but, as it was, she had not dared to refuse. Besides the meager furnishings of the farmhouse, she possessed only a few dollars and her wedding ornaments, silver hairpins and bracelets—a feeble barrier between themselves and hunger.

And now the square, red table, the rectangular stools, the rolled bedding, and the baskets of kitchen utensils had been carried within. Fu Be Be paid the coolies what they had been promised in advance and listened with small attention to their grumbling.

"This is not enough! These loads were twice as heavy as we thought them when we bargained price. You have robbed us of strength for the day. Give us another two hundred cash!"

"Two hundred cash!" she exclaimed. "Do I look like the widow of a mandarin? You agreed to my amount; if you are not satisfied, that is your affair." She waved them out of her way and entered the house.

The disgruntled coolies moved on down the street, and Young Fu turned with a sigh from the excitement of the curb. His momentary depression changed suddenly to a feeling of satisfaction that their room was in this lower house and not the upper. At the rear was a ladder which had to be climbed if one lived on top, and while that held no terrors for one who was used to scrambling to the roof of the farmhouse and adjusting tiles displaced by stormy winds, this business of living in the air above others was strange indeed. And for his mother, whose bound feet, four inches in length, had never been expected to step over anything higher than a door sill, this ladder would have presented a real problem.

Within, he stood and looked about. The walls of the one room which they were to occupy were plastered. In his village, the inn alone had plastered inner walls. That material cost more than plain baked clay, and if one could afford to have a wash of it on the outside of the building, it was a mark of prosperity. His own home had boasted such a coating and a tiled roof as well, but it had been built in his grandfather's day, when, for a brief period, the province had known peace and farmers had faced only the uncertainties of weather as their common enemy. His father had worked none the less diligently than his ancestors, but how could a man be expected to prosper when marching troops crushed the tender young plants in the fields, or settled in a village overnight and in that time seized a year's harvest for their use? Fowls and live stock disappeared always with the first visit of soldiers, and if they stayed away, the bandits came in their place.

"Mi teh fah!" his father had said in that expressive earth language which distinguished the talk of the farmers from that of their neighbors in the towns. "Mi teh fah!" And the men of the village had conquered their discouragement and planted again and again. But Young Fu, working from his sixth year beside his father in the fields, had watched him change from a young, good-humored man who was never too tired to laugh at the antics of his small assistant, to a bent, aging stranger with an unsmiling expression and lips that opened only to scold or cough. Here in Chungking there would be no farming worries at least.

Fu Be Be's voice prodded him into action. "Can you find nothing to do but stare? Certain it is there is little about this place worth anyone's glances."

Her son began to loosen ropes from a basket. "The walls are plastered," he suggested by way of favorable criticism.

His mother twisted her mouth. "Naturally, when houses are planted one on the other, something more than good, clean clay is needed. Wood or bamboo is doubtless beneath, but that will make it no better a place in which to live. Cracks there are in plenty, so that our neighbors' curiosity as well as their noise may enter. And holes! We shall do well if we do not supply food to any army of rats. Moreover, the light is poor. And I like not the odor." She walked to the rear and, pressing her eye to a break in the wall, continued, "It is as I feared—our landlord houses his pigs at the back."

In a short time the room was in order. Food was prepared and a candle lighted. It flickered grotesque shadows over the cracked walls, cast a soft glow on the brass hot-water kettle which was Fu Be Be's special pride, and reddened the highly colored countenance of the genial kitchen god whose portrait had been placed in a choice location on the chimney. This deity, friendly though he was in appearance, had been known to carry bad reports to Heaven at the festivities of the New Year period, and it was wise for a household to give him the place of honor on its walls.

Young Fu nodded wearily over the food. He held the rice bowl close to his lips and with the chopsticks pushed its contents into his packed jaws. Steaming tea revived his interest in life. He became conscious of the ceaseless bustle of the street and, rising, slipped to the outer door.

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Table of Contents

I A City Set upon a Hill 1
II "In the Beginning All Things Are Difficult" 15
III Service at the Point of a Rifle 36
IV "If a Man's Affairs Are to Prosper" 50
V For Sale-Dragon's Breath, Cheap 69
VI Tilting with Fire 88
VII The Devils of Disease 104
VIII A Footstool for Bandits! 123
IX A River on the Rampage 143
X A Small Problem of Ownership 159
XI "He Who Rides on a Tiger Cannot Dismount" 180
XII "In the Course of Time Men's Motives May Be Seen" 198
XIII A Use for Curiosity 220
XIV "One Must First Scale the Mountain in Order to View the Plain" 242
Glossary 253
Notes 257
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2010

    great book - give it a try

    loved this coming-of-age book about the journey and adventures of young man named fu. full of wonderful characters, story line, and life lessons as well as insight into another culture. relevant comparison with today's china and it's walled villages. forward & note by Katherine Paterson and Peal Buck respectively link this 1932 newbery winner to today's times. an interesting read for middle schoolers, teens and adults.

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  • Posted January 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    young fu is so good

    I love this boo k so much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2006


    Oh my god. This book doesn't have a bit of exciting detail here. It's the boringest book I've ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2006

    This is pretty poor

    I don't really like this book:it is quite poor. I just started reading it, and i want to abandon it. but it's work. oh well

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2006

    Very Bad Book, Poorly Written

    This is a very bad book, and clearly did not deserve the Newberry award. It was poorly wirtten and was dragging. Even though there was much action, Fu was heroicly saved from every disaster.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    A Confusing Book

    This book was confusing to read. It was also hard to follow along with. The events that are mentioned to lead to the main idea are confusing to put together. I have always been interested in the culture and life of Japan and China but this book made me very confused on the topic. I would not recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2002

    A Childhood Favorite

    I have read, and re-read this book. The story is facinating. This book could be the reason I visited China this past summer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2002


    I think it is very nice I just started reading it but I fell in love with it. I wish there's part2.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2002



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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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