Coolies   -     By: Yin
    Illustrated By: Chris Soentpiet
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By: Yin
Illustrated By: Chris Soentpiet
Penguin Books / 2001 / Hardcover

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Product Description

This in the land of opportunity! Skek marvels as he and Little Wong step off the overcrowded ship that had brought them to America in 1865. And they have work! Along with hundreds of other Chinese, the brothers are going to help build a great railroad across the West. They make one vow never to be separated. But as days grow into months, Shek and Wong endure more than they could have imagined bleeding hands from the heavy sledgehammer, blasting dynamite, and treacherous avalanches. For very little pay. "If you don't cooperate, I will send you back to China!" the boss explodes. Are they being treated this way because of their almond eyes because they are coolies?

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 40
Vendor: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 2001
Dimensions: 9.87 X 12 X .35 (inches)
ISBN: 0399232273
ISBN-13: 9780399232275
Ages: 5-8

Publisher's Description

When Shek and little Wong journey to America in 1865, they have work! Along with hundreds of other Chinese, the brothers are going to help build a great railroad across the West. But as days grow into months, Shek and Wong endure more than they could have imagined--bleeding hands, blasting dynamite, and treacherous avalanches. For very little pay. Are they being treated this way because of their almond-shaped eyes--because they are coolies?

Inspired by actual events in the history of the American railroad, Cooliesa reveals the harsh truth about life for thousands of Chinese laborers, while it celebrates the love and loyalty between two brothers who were determined not only to survive, but to succeed.

Author Bio

Yin lives in Queens, New York.
At the age of eight, I was adopted with my older sister from Korea to live with an American family in Hawaii. When I was 22 years old, I had the opportunity to visit my Korean brother and sisters for the first time since I was adopted . It was a happy reunion. (A book about my adoption will be released in due course.) More about my background can be found in several newspaper publications such as the Daily News and the New York Newsday.

I graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. I studied Advertising, Illustrations, Graphic Design and Art Education. But painting has always been my passion.

With encouragement and guidance from my good friend, author and illustrator, Ted Lewin, I took my portfolio along with some original paintings around New York City. The first ten publishers I visited did not have work for me until I stepped into the office of Lothrop, Lee & Shephard (acquired by: Harper-Collins Publishers). They have given me my first opportunity to illustrate and author my first children's picture book, Around Town.

My books reflect my interest in people, history and its culture. As with all my historical books, researching at the library plays an important role in illustrating the accuracy of the details I paint into each spread. After researching is complete, I hire models to play the parts of the main characters. Using models allows me to achieve a realistic and consistent look from page to page. Based on my research, I have to make the costumes if necessary. I also act as the model's hairdresser and makeup artist. Once I have taken the photographs, I'll use it as a tool to help me during the painting process. This order resembles much of my idol, whom I like to think of myself as an incarnation of the infamous Norman Rockwell.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4-When the western line of the transcontinental railroad joined the eastern line at Promontory Point, UT, in 1869, the engraving commemorating the event left out an important group of workers-the Chinese. Derisively called "coolies" by their white overseers, these refugees from Southern China came to California desperate for any work that would help them feed their starving families back home. This picture book, cast as a story told by a modern Chinese grandmother, transforms the familiar ethnic slur into a badge of honor. Large double spreads, reminiscent of epic murals, portray the perilous adventures of two brothers, Shek and Wong. After bidding their mother good-bye on the dock, they endure cramped quarters in a stormy passage across the Pacific to arrive at "The Land of Opportunity." Soentpiet's art, consistently amplifying the text, provides an ironic counterpoint, showing dazed Chinese disembarking while hostile white men stare. Subsequent scenes, painted in vivid yellows, oranges, and deep blues, dramatize the achievements of these slight, tough workers who ply sledgehammers under a blazing sun, set dynamite charges, and brave freezing temperatures and avalanches to lay track over high mountain peaks. The callousness of the railroad bosses, who pay the Chinese less than their white counterparts and starve them out of a strike, is contrasted with the devotion of the two brothers, tenderly depicted in art and text. An informative author's note is appended. Soentpiet's impassioned paintings add new emotional resonance to the heroic saga of despised immigrants whose heroism matched the towering mountains of the west.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Publisher's Weekly

In an impressive debut, Yin illuminates a dark corner of American history--the monumental labor of the thousands of Chinese immigrants who helped build the transcontinental railroad. "Look, Little Wong, this is the land of opportunity!" cries Shek to his brother when their difficult sea voyage ends in San Francisco. Soon, however, the boys discover a harsher reality as they face discrimination and derision, particularly from the tyrannical railroad bosses who call them "coolies." The brothers toil under exhausting and often dangerous conditions (because they are small, they are made to set the dynamite for tunnels through the Sierras), and join their fellow laborers in a strike when they learn that non-Chinese workers are being paid more. The strike fails, work continues and, in a final insult, everyone but the Chinese are invited to the celebration of the meeting of the Eastern and Western rail lines in Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869. "Call us what you will, it is our hands that helped build the railroad," says Shek, with the even tones and spare dignity that characterize Yin's exposition. Soentpiet (Where Is Grandpa?) floods his crowded compositions with exaggerated sunlight, candlelight, firelight, etc., throwing his palette into theatrical, overdone shades; this approach, unfortunately, works against Yin's restraint and balance. The tale ends on an upbeat note as the brothers establish a bright future in San Francisco; a framing device that links the story to the present day shores up its relevance for contemporary readers. Ages 5-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Editorial Reviews

"This is an important story, full of drama and emotion and it is here given its proper recognition and tribute in both words and glorious art." -Kirkus Reviews

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