In 1867, Otter travels from Three Willows Village in China to California the Land of the Golden Mountain. There he will join his father and uncle.
In spite of the presence of family, Otter is a stranger among the other Chinese in this new land. And where he expected to see a land of goldfields, he sees only vast, cold whiteness. But Otter's dream is to learn all he can, take the technology back to the Middle Kingdom, and free China from the Manchu invaders.
Otter and the others board a machine that will change his life a train for which he would open the Dragon's Gate.
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Otter is a fourteen year old boy adopted and raised as the son of the wealthiest family in Three Willows Village, China in the 1860's. Accidentally killing a Manchurian soldier, Otter is sent to America by his Mother to join his Father and Uncle. Uncle Foxfire is a visionary who dreams of learning more about America's machines and the new 'fire wagon' to free his people from the Manchurian rule and the English opium trade wars. Father and Uncle sign contracts to work on the transcontinental railroad where Otter joins them, only to discover themselves treated as the worst kind of slaves under impossible working and living conditions.Ultimately, with his Uncle dead and his injured Father sent home, Otter will lead the Chinese in a protest to improve their wages and living conditions and participate in the completion of the railroad.
Dragon'sGate tells an interesting story of a boy who wants to come to America but doesn't know what he's getting into as a laborer on the transcontiental railroad. It's just two years after the end of the Civil War, but in this book Americans are treating the Chineese workers as slaves, whipping them and preventing them from walking off the job. The description of the conditions is long and detailed, and the begiinning of the story which occrus in China after the British have introduced opium trade is left unfinished. An interesting book, but a difficult one.
In this story of a boy named Otter who circumstance forces him to leave his home in China. He goes to live in Californiato live with his father and uncle. The situation he faces is unlike the vision he had of his new home. He discovers that the Chinese workers endure horrific treatment by their employers. They are apart of a group that is slowly building a railroad across the Sierra Nevada mountains.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.