Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung: A Chinese Miner, California 1852

The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung: A Chinese Miner, California 1852

Laurence Yep
Historical Fiction
For ages 10 and up
Scholastic, 2000   ISBN: 978-0590386074

Wong Ming-Chung, or Runt as he is known by his family, lives in a China where there is much poverty and suffering. His family have very little, beaten down by poor harvests and wars. Because of this Runt’s uncle decides that he is going to seek his fortune in "the Golden Mountain" in America. There is gold to be had there, easy pickings for anyone who goes seeking it - or so they have been told. The family think that Uncle is quite mad and have very little confidence in his scheme but he goes all the same. They soon have to change their tune when money starts to arrive from Uncle. Now Runt’s family live in much more comfortable circumstances and just as he is getting used to being a respected member of his village community the family gets a letter from Uncle requesting that they send Runt’s elder brother Blessings to join him. Runt is horrified when his parents tell him that they want to send him instead. It would seem that they love him so little that they are willing to send him off into to grave danger in a far off land.

Poor Runt begins his journey and it turns out to be a hard and difficult one. It is with great relief that he is finally reunited with Uncle on the Gold Mountain. Runt soon learns that melon-sized nuggets are a myth and that gold mining is a miserable and back breaking business. Added to this is the resentment that foreign miners have to deal with on a daily basis. Runt begins to wonder how soon it will be before all the Chinese are chased off the Gold Mountain all together.

Laurence Yep does a masterful job of getting inside the mind and heart of this courageous boy who finds his place in the big scheme of things against frightful odds. Yep shows us how the Chinese feel and think and how they viewed the strangeness of the American world that they journey to to seek their fortunes. We cannot help admiring these brave people who had to deal with so many hardships and yet who kept on going and who never forgot those back in China who were relying on them to succeed.