Milly Lee, illustrated by Yangsook Choi,
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006.
This is the true story of how Milly Lees' father-in-law Sun made his journey from China to live in the United States. Yangsook Choi's eye-catching cover illustration shows Sun smartly-dressed in his western-style suit newly arrived on the terra firma of the U.S., his suitcase in one hand; his precious papers in the other. But behind him looms the outline of Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, where Sun will spend many weeks before he will formally be allowed to enter America. His journey begins after his 12th birthday when he has to learn every detail of his existencehis family, his village, his home: in preparation for the interrogation he will have to undergo. During his time on Angel Island, 'like a prison', Sun comes into contact with 'paper sons'. These are boys who have memorised all they can from 'coaching books' to pose as those with a genuine claim to American Citizenship: a process facilitated by the loss of official records during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as Lee explains in her useful historical note at the end. Sun is a 'true son' but his interrogation is no less scary for all that and the reader becomes very caught up in his story, aware from the start which questions might trip him up. Help comes from an unexpected source.
Choi's illustrations compliment the text beautifully. Their apparently muted tones are highlighted by the turquoise of the sea and hold an engaging luminosity. It is a delight to have a picture-book for older readerspeople of all ages can enjoy this book and be informed of an episode in this little-known area of America's recent history.