Saturday, March 26, 2011

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze (1933)

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze tells the story of a young boy, age 13, who is displaced by war in 1920s China. (The date is approximate as I could not find an actual time in the book.)  At his father's death, Young Fu and his mother have no way of working their fields, but someone in the village has connections to a coppersmith in Chungking (now spelled "Chongqing"), and is able to secure an apprenticeship for Young Fu.  Going from the open air and fields of China to the cramped city is quite a change for them.

(A note.  Fu is the family name.  Young Fu's name is actually "Fu Yuin-fah."  In China the family name is first, and he is called "Young Fu" because he is young.)

Young Fu develops a good relationship with the coppersmith and learns his trade well.  He has learning experiences as he grows and develops in his new setting.  These were all very interesting.  He learned the vices of going into debt, the danger of gambling, the stumbling block of pride, the horror of war.  All of these are told with understanding and compassion for Young Fu and those he associates with.

I especially enjoyed watching how his relationship with his mother and the coppersmith develop as Young Fu grows up.  I also learned much about the customs of China during that time.  The people, especially those from the country, were very superstitious.  His mother constantly reminds him to not cross this dragon or that.  But as Young Fu experiences life, he comes to not believe quite so strongly in the old teachings.

One thing that I really liked about Young Fu was his honesty.  Several times in the book he had the opportunity to lie or tell half-truths or keep silent when it was to his advantage, but he always spoke out and told the full truth.

This book had many good nuggets of truth to glean.  Here are some favorite quotes:

"Always these foreigners must hurry.  They waste good time studying their watches. They hasten to earn money and hasten to spend it.  Why then trouble to gain it?  Careful spending increases riches." (p. 34)

"What is fortune without wisdom?" (p. 54)

"No man can rule the unruly until he first rules himself." (p. 164)"No task into which a man puts his heart is too bad.  For the lazy, all work is difficult. 'The superior man finds pleasure in doing what is uncongenial.'" (p. 249)

I would definitely recommend Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Lewis, Elizabeth Foreman. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1932.


  1. It seems to me that a lot of the Newbery winners (thus far) are similar in one respect: they are all of the sort that serve to "expand the cultural horizon" of the young reader - most often in faraway lands.

  2. (Judy) I was noticing a similar theme at least for these earliest books. Perhaps we will see a change as the years progress through the 1900's.

    When I first heard of your goal, I thought that was great. Now I can learn about some good books without actually reading them. Instead, I find my list of books to read growing weekly. I am not sure if I will ever get them all read but I appreciate you sharing yourself and reading in this way.

    I am looking forward to your next report....