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Child of the Owl

Child of the Owl

4.5 2
by Laurence Yep

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A 12-year-old girl who knows little about her Chinese heritage is sent to live with her grandmother in San Francisco's Chinatown.


A 12-year-old girl who knows little about her Chinese heritage is sent to live with her grandmother in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Editorial Reviews

Maxine Hong Kingston
Hey! That Happened to me. I did that. I saw that,' the young reader will say, and be glad that a writer set it down, and feel comforted, less eccentric, less alone. Along with the sadness, Child Of The Owl makes us laugh with familiarity. —Washington Post Book World
Children's Literature
Yep's award winning dramatic prose draws older readers into the complicated life of a young teenage girl in Chinatown during the 1960's. This intergenerational story is part of Yep's award winning "Golden Mountain Chronicles." This compelling first person narrative is spun by Casey, and easily draws older readers into her life in Chinatown of San Francisco in the 1960s. Chinatown is a new world for Casey. When her father, Barney, ends up in the hospital, Casey is sent to live with her grandma. Casey is not familiar with her Chinese history. She must now attend Chinese school, eat strange Chinese food and live among people who rarely speak English. Slowly Casey's grandmother, Paw-Paw, reveals their family history and tells Casey her true Chinese name. Readers will identify with Casey and her struggles and will be moved as Casey makes room in her heart for her Chinese grandmother and her Chinese history. Yep's book is an ALA Notable Book, A School Library Journal Best Book and also won a Jane Addams Book Award. 2001, HarperTrophy, $6.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Sue Reichard

Product Details

Harpercollins Childrens Books
Publication date:
Golden Mountain Chronicles Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

August 1964

It was hard to understand Barney with the air tubes up his nose. It made his voice sound funny and he couldn't talk very loud. There was a cast on one arm and one leg too and bandages on the others. And his hands were still — that was the worst of it. Barney had long, nervous hands that were usually drumming out a tune or scratching his arm or doing something, but now they were quiet. They didn't seem to belong to him.

I just stood in the doorway because I didn't want to bother Barney if he was about to take a nap. But I didn't like looking at him too much so I looked around the ward. Almost every other patient there had flowers or baskets of fruit or little transistor radios or their own little electric clocks: something that made the space around their bed their own. And most everyone had some visitors with them. Even the oldest guys in there had some friends visiting them. But Barney had nothing and no one, except for me.

"Casey?" Barney's voice sounded muffled and more nasal.

"Hey, Barney." I tried to smile as I walked over to his bed. Someone had taken the visitor's chair that ought to have been by his bedside so I had to stand up. My sweat shirt was the kind that had the pockets in front so you could stick your hands in them to warm up. Barney always said it made me look like a kangaroo in jeans.

"What are you doing here?" Barney asked. "Thought they wouldn't let kids in?"

"Snuck in. I had Morey draw me a map of where your bed was on this floor and then I snuck up the stairs."

"How'd you get past the nurses at the desk?"

"Morey's talking to them. You know howhard it is to get away from old Morey once he grabs hold of you." I pulled the two Peter Paul bars out of my sweat shirt. "Thought your sweet tooth might be bothering you." I glanced at the big fat Whitman's Sampler of chocolate Barney's neighbor had. "Sorry it couldn't be a whole boxful."

"'S all right. Can't eat them anyway. Put them in the drawer, will you?" Barney waved his hand vaguely toward the nightstand.

I opened up the little drawer there and put the two bars in beside the wash cloth and the bar of soap. "It's just as well." I tried to laugh in a relaxed way. "They got a little soft from being in my pockets. They'll cool off this way."

But when I'd finished closing the drawer and turned back to Barney, I saw he was looking at me in this funny way like I'd never seen before, not in all our years together. He looked real sad and scared at the same time. "You ain't too mad at me, are you, baby?"

"Mad?" I asked, surprised. "Why should I be mad?"

"I mean about me losing the money and all."

"The only guys I'm mad at are the guys who beat you up and robbed you when you left the bookie."

Barney turned his face up toward the ceiling. He seemed relieved. "You're not any madder than me. I was already seeing us on that Greyhound ... no, a chauffeured limousine down to San Francisco."

I can't remember when Barney's story began but all my life I'd heard this story about how this little girl and her father were going to hit it big one of these days, either in his gambling or in one of his real-estate deals that one of his drinking buddies was going to get up-Barney was always their bosom buddy till the deal fell through.

And then he'd tell me how he was going to get that big penthouse apartment on Nob Hill over in San Francisco so we could see the fog coming in over the city and then we'd turn around and look across the bay at the lights of Oakland, strung out like a shimmering golden river. And I wouldn't stop buying clothes, toys, comics, and records I wanted till I had filled up that apartment. And then we'd move to another. Somehow Barney never got around to what would happen after we ran out of things to buy and apartments to move into. But maybe that's because his story never really got off the ground.

I guess there used to be a mom, Jeanie by name, in the story too, but she must have dropped out of it quick because she died when I was small. I don't remember her, though I've got a photo of her taken when Barney still had some hair. It was at some party and she was the pretty, smiling girl sitting next to Barney in his army uniform after he got back from World War II. Both of them held up plastic champagne glasses that didn't have champagne in them, only Schlitz.

When we were really desperate for money — usually a week after Barney had to pawn his wedding ring againBarney would take up his hobby, which most other people would call work, until he had paid our bills and re-claimed his ring. In Fresno he was a dishwasher and in Redding he was a waiter — at the Tokyo Palace no less because Redding is a small town short on Orientals and no one read the part of the menu in Japanese much less ordered in it-and in Santa Barbara he was a fry cook at a Big Boy with a chef s hat and a red neckerchief...

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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Child of the Owl (Golden Mountain Chronicles: 1965) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book and it was very good. It was full of supence and made me wanna read more. I recomend this book to any one and every one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this book was o.k. and whoever thinks it sucks. All i can say is that they are have a small vocab. I liked the book cause it as realistic.