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Diane Lee Wilson. S&S/McElderry, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-442-42013-7

In 1866, 13-year-old Malachy Gormley can’t wait to travel west to Cisco, Calif., to join the Central Pacific Railroad Company in its race against the Union Pacific to complete the transcontinental railroad. When his father didn’t return from the Civil War, Malachy became the sole provider for his mother and siblings in New York (“I was on my own. It was up to me and me alone to regain my feet and punch the world back”). Malachy works alongside mistreated, underpaid “Chinamen,” observing their unfamiliar culture and developing an uneasy friendship with Chun Kwok Keung, a Chinese teenager who Malachy nicknames “Ducks.” With an adopted bulldog and a blind but loyal horse, Malachy battles horrendous weather, miserly bosses, daily dangers, loneliness, and guilt about his family’s struggles back home. Wilson’s (Raven Speak) coming-of-age story plunges readers into the heart of Malachy’s character and circumstances (of Irish heritage, Malachy, like the Chinese workers, is no stranger to prejudice). Readers will be drawn in by Wilson’s eloquent and expressive writing as it details Malachy’s emotional and physical struggles toward adulthood. Ages 10–14. (Apr.)