Skip to main content
by Helen Foster Helen Foster James & Virginia Shin-Mui Loh

illustrated by Wilson Ong


From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Twelve-year-old Lee does not want to leave China. Yet the responsibility for supporting his grandparents weighs heavily on his heart. He is to be a “paper son,” and he studies a coaching book that details the life he supposedly lives with his American father so he can dupe immigration officials in California. After tense good-byes, Lee is off across the Pacific in 1926, only to be detained on Angel Island (“the Ellis Island of the West”) with other Asian immigrants. They are treated like prisoners and fear deportation, but Lee knows that he must prove that he belongs with the family listed on his documents and is more than just their son on paper. In this poignant tale of home and heartbreak, which recalls Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey (1993), readers learn about the emotional toll that is part of so many immigration experiences. Ong’s light-infused paintings match the narrative’s subdued tone, and Lee’s dignity is evident in his upright posture as he bravely faces a new life in a foreign place. It’s not a story often told for this age, and readers will be drawn to Lee’s quiet determination as he grapples with the complexity of knowing that “I didn’t want to come, but now I need to stay.” Grades 3-6. –Amina Chaudhri


1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, Ages 4-8, Ages 9-12, Historical Fiction