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Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Press:Henry Holt & Co Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); 1st edition (April 17, 2007)
Publication Date:2007-4
Author Name:Lewis, Elizabeth Foreman/ Low, William (ILT)


A classic Newbery Award winner, with an introduction by Katherine Paterson and new illustrationsWhen Young Fu arrives with his mother in bustling 1920s Chungking, all he has seen of the world is the rural farming village where he has grown up. 
He knows nothing of city life.
But the city, with its wonders and dangers, fascinates the thirteen-year-old boy, and he sets out to make the best of what it has to offer him.
First published in 1932, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was one of the earliest Newbery Medal winners.
Although China has changed since that time, Young Fu's experiences, like making friends, are timeless.

From the Publisher

Introduction by Pearl S. 
This "accurate, vivid and well-written story" (The New York Times ) is about Young Fu, a country boy, who is apprenticed to a master coppersmith when he and his mother move to the city of Chungking during the exciting and often dangerous 1920s.A Newbery Medal Book.

--This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

From the Inside Flap

Young Fu is bound for seven years to be an apprentice to Tang the coppersmith, and his new life in the Chinese city Chungking is both exciting and terrifying. 
Young Fu endures the taunts of his coworkers, and must live by his wits on the streets, where restless soldiers will shoot a man if he does not carry a load for them, and beggars steal from those who pass them by.Yet for Young Fu, the pleasures of the bustling Chungking of the 1920s far outweigh its dangers.
Little by little he learns the ways of the big city and plunges into adventure after adventure.
Young Fu's eagerness to help others and his acts of courage earn him many friends, and finally, more good fortune than he ever thought possible.

--This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Foreman Lewis (d. 
1958) went to China in 1917 where she studied the Chinese language and history, and held teaching posts in Shanghai, Chungking, and Nanking.
was her first book.William Low is the author and illustrator of Chinatown and Old Penn Station, as well as a four-time Silver Medal winner at the Society of Illustrators.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

YOUNG FU OF THE UPPER YANGTZE by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis– 1 –A City Set upon a HillYoung Fu stood on the narrow curbing before Dai’s two-storied tenement in Chair-Makers’ Way, Chungking, and stared about him. 
In the doorway, Fu Be Be, his mother, directed load-coolies in placing the household goods which she had brought from home, and anxiously examined each article as it passed before her.
A day of clattering over country roads, followed by two on the crowded freight boat, had been difficult indeed for her, but the furniture looked no worse for wear than did her son.
For him the hours had flowed into the past as swiftly as the current of the river.
He had been fascinated by shifting scenes and strange faces; the constant menace of bandits with which all travel was shadowed, had added its own flavor to the experience, and when at last Chungking’s great walls had loomed above them, it had seemed the fulfillment of all his dreams.He turned in the direction of a yell as one of the load-bearers lowered his burden of a pigskin trunk on the bare foot of a bystander.
In a flash the two men, their faces white with anger, were after each other.“Pig, have you no eyes?”“And you, grandson of a two-headed dog, could you not see that trunk?”“It is your affair, you whose ancestors for ten generations have been scavengers of the streets, to look where you place a load!”“And it is yours, whose grandmother resembled a monkey, to move out of the way of workers!”The carrier, unlike the Chungkingese about him, wore a queue, and the bystander stretched out a hand, grabbed the tail of hair, and pulled viciously.
The queue, half of which was false hair plaited in with string, came apart in his hand and the onlookers roared.
Furious with chagrin, the victim lifted his carrying pole to strike.
As he did so, an unexpected clamor in the street drew everyone’s attention, and the bystander seized this opportunity to lose himself in the crowd.A handsome red wedding chair, ornately decorated with gold, rolled past.
Hidden completely behind its satin-hung curtains, sat a youthful bride on the way to her new home.
A long train of coolies followed the chair, swinging great, painted trays on which rested roast fowls and sweetmeats, silk bed comforts and hard, lacquered pillows, sealed boxes of clothing, and pieces of furniture—all of the contributions essential to any dowry.
When the last of these had disappeared from sight, the angry carrier, who had succeeded in plaiting his queue to its original length, stooped, picked up his pole, and resumed work as if nothing had ever disturbed him.Fu Be Be breathed a sigh of relief.
After the quiet countryside, this city was providing more excitement than she could well endure, but she would have to be content for her son’s sake.Young Fu, unconscious of anything but the fact that he was now in Chungking, drew a long breath of delight.
In his village men who counted it a privilege to visit this city once in a lifetime had told of its wonders.“Miles of streets there are, lined with shops where may be purchased more than any man will ever need,” he had heard the innkeeper say one evening.
“The people, a hundred times ten thousand in number—so many that they are forced to build dwellings on top of one another that all may be sheltered—work at their countless trades and, when there is time for play, enjoy themselves in handsome tea houses and theaters.” Here the speaker had paused in the act of serving a new customer and had gazed inquiringly from one listener to another.
“When, sirs,” he had demanded, “do farmers and innkeepers ever find time to play? Certainly the citizens of that place are people of good fortune!”A true saying! For Chungking, built high above the waters that swept about its feet, was distinct in its position of port city to all of this far, western world.
To the west and north towered the frozen Himalayas and mysterious Tibet; to the south, trade routes, centuries old, connected it with Indo-China, Burma, and India; to the east, its main artery of life, the Yangtze-kiang, flowed tortuously for fifteen hundred miles before it reached Shanghai and the coast and emptied its muddy stream into the blue Pacific.And, ancient and gray, Chungking opened its gates to let the tides of commerce flow in and out, never failing to reach for the choicest prizes and hug them to itself.
Wealth it had, wealth that was reckoned enormous even in Szechuen, this the richest province in the Middle Kingdom, and poverty such as only an overpopulated Chinese city can know.
Young Fu’s pulse quickened; he, Fu Yuin-fah, at the age of thirteen was already here, standing on one of its streets and watching coolies carry familiar household possessions into the room in which he and his mother would live.That Fu Be Be did not share his enthusiasm, he knew.
For weeks she had wept over the idea of leaving the farm land where she had spent her lfe.
But with her husband’s death, she had not known in which direction to turn for help.
Her father-in-law had died years before, and there was no other member of his family on whom she had a claim.
Tilling the ground offered in these troubled times a secure living to no man.
As for a widow and a growing boy—she clicked her tongue in dismay.And then, when the future had seemed darkest, the Head of the Village told her of an opening for an apprentice with one Tang, a coppersmith of Chungking, and, at her request, letters had been exchanged and her son accepted.
A life in Chungking was not what she would have chosen for either of them, but, as it was, she had not dared to refuse.
Besides the meager furnishings of the farmhouse, she possessed only a few dollars and her wedding ornaments, silver hairpins and bracelets—a feeble barrier between themselves and hunger.And now the square, red table, the rectangular stools, the rolled bedding, and the baskets of kitchen utensils had been carried within.
Fu Be Be paid the coolies what they had been promised in advance and listened with small attention to their grumbling.“This is not enough! These loads were twice as heavy as we thought them when we bargained price.
You have robbed us of strength for the day.
Give us another two hundred cash!”“Two hundred cash!” she exclaimed.
“Do I look like the widow of a mandarin? You agreed to my amount; if you are not satisfied, that is your affair.” She waved them out of her way and entered the house.The disgruntled coolies moved on down the street, and Young Fu turned with a sigh from the excitement of the curb.
His momentary depression changed suddenly to a feeling of satisfaction that their room was in this lower house and not the upper.
At the rear was a ladder which had to be climbed if one lived on top, and while that held no terrors for one who was used to scrambling to the roof of the farmhouse and adjusting tiles displaced by stormy winds, this business of living in the air above others was strange indeed.
And for his mother, whose bound feet, four inches in length, had never been expected to step over anything higher than a door sill, this ladder would have presented a real problem.Within, he stood and looked about.
The walls of the one room which they were to occupy were plastered.
In his village, the inn alone had plastered inner walls.
That material cost more than plain baked clay, and if one could afford to have a wash of it on the outside of the building, it was a mark of prosperity.
His own home had boasted such a coating and a tiled roof as well, but it had been built in his grandfather’s day, when, for a brief period, the province had known peace and farmers had faced only the uncertainties of weather as their common enemy.
His father had worked none the less diligently than his ancestors, but how could a man be expected to prosper when marching troops crushed the tender young plants in the fields, or settled in a village overnight and in that time seized a year’s harvest for their use? Fowls and live stock disappeared always with the first visit of soldiers, and if they stayed away, the bandits came in their place.“Mi teh fah!” his father had said in that expressive earth language which distinguished the talk of the farmers from that of their neighbors in the towns.
“Miteh fah!” And the men of the village had conquered their discouragement and planted again and again.
But Young Fu, working from his sixth year beside his father in the fields, had watched him change from a young, good-humored man who was never too tired to laugh at the antics of his small assistant, to a bent, aging stranger with an unsmiling expression and lips that opened only to scold or cough.
Here in Chungking there would be no farming worries at least.Fu Be Be’s voice prodded him into action.
“Can you find nothing to do but stare? Certain it is there is little about this place worth anyone’s glances.”Her son began to loosen ropes from a basket.
“The walls are plastered,” he suggested by way of favorable criticism.His mother twisted her mouth.
“Naturally, when houses are planted one on the other, something more than good, clean clay is needed.
Wood or bamboo is doubtless beneath, but that will make it no better a place in which to live.
Cracks there are in plenty, so that our neighbors’ curiosity as well as their noise may enter.
And holes! We shall do well if we do not supply food to any army of rats.
Moreover, the light is poor.
And I like not the odor.” She walked to the rear and, pressing her eye to a break in the wall, continued, “It is as I feared—our landlord houses his pigs at the back.”In a short time the room was in order.
Food was prepared and a candle lighted.
It flickered grotesque shadows over the cracked walls, cast a soft glow on the brass h...


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Comment List (Total:14)

  •     Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze is a wonderful book that I could continue reading a long time. The literature provided by Elizabeth Foreman is rich with interesting characters and a lush background. It seems like you want to get inside of the book and find out what's going on in their heads. The story is set in 1920's China after the Empress dies. There is turmoil and mayhem. Looting and theivery is expected every day. Corrupt soldiers wander the streets looking for an unexpected peasant to push around. Fu is a young boy from the countryside who has come to the city after his father dies. Fu Be Be is Young Fu's mother and she is wary about moving to the dangerous and exhilarating life of the city. Fu is an apprentice to a craftsman named Tang. Immediately Fu is thrust into a whirlwind of responsibility and he shows his soft side. Many obstacles are thrown his way, but he always keeps his humanity intact. When an American woman needs help from a burning building, Fu pushes aside the tales of them and how they can inflict evil upon contact. To see an Chinese book being written by an American is refreshing for the mind.

  •     Delighted with my purchase. The book arrived as described by the Seller and it arrived ahead of schedule. Couldn't be happier.

  •     I had SUCH a good time reading this book. I kept a close eye on my Kindle's page tracking, confident that I still had half a chapter or so to go - and it finished!

  •     Thank you very much.

  •     Beautiful, Descriptive StorytellingI first read Young Fu nearly twenty years ago, and it has been one of my favourite books ever since.

  •     Great book

  •     My sister enjoyed the bio fictional story. Mrs. Lewis made the story very real life, and my sister will read it again and again I'm sure.

  •     This book is the story of a thirteen year old boy from the farms of central China who, with his widowed mother, moves to the big city, Chungking (now spelled Chongqing). Because life on the farm is so uncertain, and, in fact, rather dangerous because of banditry, Fu will be apprenticed to Tang, a master coppersmith. The book portrays a turbulent time, after the fall of Imperial government, and before a new order could arise, a time of war and disunity.I often read this book with my sixth grade class. The author is Western (she left America for a career as a teacher and missionary in Shanghai, Chungking, and Nanking) and sometimes this bias shows through, as does her distaste for rabble-rousing young revolutionaries (early communists?), though perhaps her sentiments would be shared by many modern Chinese.Still, the book makes fascinating reading. It introduces the reader to a China that has passed into history (thank goodness - it was such a violent time), yet many authentic cultural ideas and customs that are presented in the book persist, such as payment of debts on New Years, crooked streets catching ghosts, etc. There are even a few Chinese expressions. Some are translated into English (like FangXin - let down your heart) and others are kept in Chinese, such as Tuchun (a military governor).The book is well-written, though quite episodic. This episodic nature can be an advantage, though, since it may be possible to shorten the book when presenting it to a class by skipping some chapters. Also, in the back of the book is an appendix, keyed to the chapters, that explains some differences between the China of today and the China of the 1920's. The characters are well drawn. Although there is little character development outside the main character, Young Fu does have to deal with a lot of the issues confronting a young man growing up. His adventurous spirit and willingness to embrace new ideas are contrasted with the attitudes of others around him. This openness to change (and to Western ideas, such as Western medicine)usually lead to his successes.Some of the main issues dealt with in this book are: superstitions, the value of education, the roles of foreigners in the China of that time, the value of education, the effect of war and politics on a large, though backwater, town, as well as friendship and family.This book is probably appropriate for very high fifth grade through ninth grade. It makes excellent material for a sixth grade class, but they may some guidance or orientation, because the life depicted is so different from our own.The illustrations help when explaining ideas such as "Wedding Chair" or "Load-pole."

  •     We had to read this book for school. Nobody that I knew liked it. It was long and dull. It was about a 240 page book and it took place through 8 years.

  •     One of my favorite books from when I was 13

  •     I have a goal of reading all the Newberry Award winning books. I was in the midst of reading this one when I lost the book. This was actually a better copy and I took up right where I left off. I still put Because of Winn Dixie, Newberry Honor Winner, as my favorite and Maniac McGee as my second, Newberry Award, of the Newberry winning books. There are always lessons to learn and strong pre-teen/teen characters at the center of these books. This one takes place in China in the early 1900s. While bringing in a bit of history, we learn that hard work has its benefits.

  •     This is the story of fatherless Young Fu, who comes from rural China to the "big city" with his mother in the 1920s to be an apprentice to a coppersmith. This book was a Newbery Award book in 1932. A lot is learned about China during the time period, both culturally and historically, and it's quite fascinating. The flooding of the Yangtze, apprenticeships, the dragon, the New Year, dominoes, etc.Young Fu's character is well-drawn and develops very naturally over the course of the book, as he learns many life lessons. He's an enjoyable character that you end up rooting for, though far from perfect, he's trying to do what's right and move forward. It's a coming-of-age process that trancends time and place. The character of Tang the coppersmith is also well-drawn and very enjoyable.The book is somewhat episodic in nature, but it doesn't feel disjointed, just hitting the highlights of a few years of his life. It does make for very natural stopping points when reading aloud. I read this book aloud to my 7 1/2 and 5 1/2 year old children, and they greatly enjoyed it.I would definitely recommend this book as a read-aloud in the elementary school years, and for independent reading by a child reading on the 5th grade level or up. Because there were religious beliefs that were described that contradict our own Christian beliefs (though they were more just described and not "promoted"), I personally discussed those differences as we went along. All together a very enjoyable book for the children, but one that I enjoyed very much myself. I wish this author had written more books.

  •     a boy is awesome in this book . I love this book so good ! and i think this book is the best you should get it

  •     An early winner of the Newbery Award for children’s literature set in China in the late 1920’s.It’s a real pleasure as I read these older Newbery winners to discover...


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