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The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung a Chinese Miner; California, 1852

Review

The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung a Chinese Miner; California, 1852

In 1848, gold was discovered in California, and the whole world heard about it. People from Australia, South America, Europe, and China travel to California, and they all dream of becoming rich. THE JOURNAL OF WONG MING-CHUNG tells about 12-year-old Bright Intelligence (his nickname is Runt because he's small), whose uncle, Precious Stone, travels to America from China in 1851, in hopes of finding a better life.

It's a very dangerous trip. Runt is glad when Uncle decides that he is still going to go, and he begins a journal to honor his uncle's courage and the journey he takes. Uncle Stone promises Runt's older brother, Blessing, that when he gets to California, he will send for him to come, too. Blessing is glad, because it means he won't have to go to school anymore. But Runt loves school, so he is glad that when his uncle gets to California and sends them money, he'll be able to go to school all the time.

They have to wait five months before they hear anything. But Uncle makes it! He sends them more money than they've ever seen, plus a letter telling them that he wants Blessing to join him, just like he promised. As head of the family, Uncle must be obeyed. But Runt's parents argue for days about sending Blessing; finally, they decide to send Runt instead. Blessing wants to go, and Runt doesn't. But he can't disobey his parents. He knows that Blessing is bigger and stronger, but he's hurt that his parents have chosen to keep Blessing at home to help them and have sacrificed him instead. The journey will be more than 6000 miles across the ocean, and it will take months. Many people die on the way. When Runt heads for Hong Kong, where he will board the ship, he is trembling with fear.

His journey is full of hardships. First, he has to stay in a huge building filled with people waiting to get on the ship. Someone steals his belongings. Once aboard ship, all the immigrants are locked in the hold. There is so much sickness that every day they line up the corpses for the crew to take away and throw into the sea. Then, when Runt arrives in California, things aren't much better. He finds his uncle, but there is hardly any gold left to discover. Americans are angry at all the foreigners coming to hunt for gold; they steal from them, beat them, and chase them off their claims. And Runt, who has never seen snow, has to brave the coldest winter he's ever known.

Through the fictional journal of one Chinese boy, this book in the My Name Is America series tells an accurate account of the hardships endured by the Chinese immigrants during California's Gold Rush. It includes pictures from the times, plus a summary of the historical period. You will enjoy seeing how Bright Intelligence musters all his courage to make his way in a huge, new world. You'll definitely want to know if Runt and Uncle Stone find gold, and if they go back to China or stay in their new country.

Reviewed by Tamara Penny on April 1, 2001

The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung a Chinese Miner; California, 1852
by Laurence Yep

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2000
  • Hardcover: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 0590386077
  • ISBN-13: 9780590386074