Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis

This one was such a treat after the last book :) It says in the intro that this book was one of the ones used in Germany and Austria as part of the US Government Reorientation Program, which was pretty awesome to learn! I'd link to Wikipedia for more information but believe it or not, this program has no entry. Boo.

The author has also clearly done her homework. She spent years in China as part of the China Inland Mission, teaching religious instruction classes. Clearly she has a great deal of respect for her characters and their culture. The speech does seem a bit stilted at times, but I think it's more intended to remind the reader that the dialogue doesn't take place in English (and really, wouldn't it seem stranger if they were speaking slangily?).

After the death of his father, Young Fu and his mother move to Chungking so that he can pursue an apprenticeship under the instruction of a coppersmith. Young Fu had never been to a city before; his family were country farmers and unfamiliar with city life, but with no other means of survival his mother reluctantly moved them. The reader learns of the culture of city life along with Young Fu; how business is conducted, who lives where, and the diversity of professions and businesses that he previously had no concept of.

Young Fu begins at the bottom of the food chain at Tang's shop, keeping the fire stoked to just the right temperature, but he slowly (and despite his ignorant country ways) gains the approval and kinship of the others in the shop. Additionally, his errands often bring him around the city, where he has many adventures and encounters a great deal of good fortune (although his ignorance, gullibility, and overestimation of his own virtues also cost him at times). An honest and earnest character, he's very sympathetic, making the book so, so easy to read and enjoy (and after 6 weeks at Glory of the Seas, I could not have appreciated this book more). Children today would have no trouble enjoying this one.

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