Paper Son: Lee's Journey to America (Tales of Young Americans)

by Helen Foster James (Author) Wilson Ong (Illustrator)

Paper Son: Lee's Journey to America (Tales of Young Americans)
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

In 1926, 12-year-old Fu Lee lives with his grandparents in a small village in China. He lives with his grandparents because his parents are dead. It is a difficult life but made easier by the love Lee shares with his grandparents. But now Lee must leave all that he knows. Before his parents died, they spent all of their money buying a "paper son slot" for Lee to go to America. Being a "paper son" means pretending to be the son of a family already in America. If he goes, he will have the chance for a better life. But first he must pass the test at Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco. Only then will he be allowed to live with his new family. If Lee makes even a single mistake, he could be sent back to China. Lee knows his grandparents want a better life for him. He can't let them down.


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Kirkus Reviews

An effective and empathetic depiction of the Angel Island experience. 

Booklist

Starred Review
 Ong’s light-infused paintings match the narrative’s subdued tone, and Lee’s dignity is evident in his upright posture as he bravely faces a new life in a foreign place. It’s not a story often told for this age, and readers will be drawn to Lee’s quiet determination as he grapples with the complexity of knowing that “I didn’t want to come, but now I need to stay.”

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--Lee, 12, lives with his grandparents. His parents have died, but it was their wish that he go to America for better opportunities. In 1926, conditions are difficult in China, and the boy's loving grandparents sadly agree that leaving would be the best thing for him. Immigration laws restrict Chinese people from entering the United States, so Lee's family purchased a "paper son" slot for him. A Chinese man already living in America will say that Lee is his son to get him into the country. As Wang Lee becomes Fu Lee, he must learn minute details about his new family in order to pass the interrogations at the Angel Island Immigration Station. While often called the "Ellis Island" of the west, Angel Island was often about stopping immigrants rather than welcoming them. People could spend weeks, months, or even years there, waiting to pass the tests or appealing deportation rulings. Since being a "paper son" was illegal, secrecy was paramount. The story concentrates on Lee's feelings about traveling alone to America, staying on Angel Island, and navigating the questioning. Failure would mean deportation, giving up the chance to help his grandparents, and losing the money his family paid. Large-scale illustrations, full-page and two-page bleeds, realistically portray the time and place and will help young readers with context. The authors provide a helpful summary of Angel Island history. Use with Milly Lee's Landed (Farrar, 2006) and Laurence Yep's Dragon Child (HarperCollins, 2008) to give young readers a fascinating glimpse into this elusive chapter of American history.--Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9781585368334
Lexile Measure
590L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Sleeping Bear Press
Publication date
May 20, 2013
Series
Tales of Young Americans
BISAC categories
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
JUV016150 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - 20th Century
Library of Congress categories
History
Immigrants
20th century
Orphans
Emigration and immigration
Chinese Americans
Angel Island Immigration Station (Calif.)
Angel Island (Calif.)
San Diego Book Awards
Winner 2014 - 2014
California Young Reader Medal
Nominee 2017 - 2017

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