cover image Oranges on Golden Mountain

Oranges on Golden Mountain

Elizabeth Partridge. Dutton Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46453-2

Exquisitely complemented by Sogabe's (Aesop's Fox) subtly colored cut-paper illustrations, this unusual tale finds a Chinese boy adjusting to a new life in 19th-century California. Faced with drought and famine, Jo Lee's widowed mother reluctantly decides to send him to join his fisherman uncle ""on Golden Mountain,"" as the Chinese then called California. His mother promises Jo Lee that he will never be alone: ""Your dream spirit, your Hun, will make sure of that."" She also gives him cuttings from her orange trees, which he dutifully plants and tends after his arrival. Partridge's (Clara and the Hoodoo Man) perceptive details enrich the story of Jo Lee's sojourn as he learns to fish in the San Francisco Bay and to ""dance"" on the shrimp in wooden shoes until they snap out of their shells, all the while saving for his family's eventual passage to America. Brief dream sequences express the boy's inner conflicts: in these, his Hun travels back to China to visit his mother and sister. Seamlessly constructed, the tale finds its match in Sogabe's eye-catching art. Her bold, confident lines and sophisticated shades combine the vigor of woodcuts with the delicacy of watercolor. An afterword provides additional information about the Chinese immigrant experience and the concept of the dream spirit. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)