In this sequel to Coolies, Shek and Wong’s younger brother Ming arrives in San Francisco from China to stay with his brothers and work in their store. Although he is admonished not to leave Chinatown, he eventually does, making his way to the local school. He meets the irrepressible Patrick, an Irish immigrant his own age. Despite not being able to understand each other, they become fast friends. Patrick teachers Ming English, helps him clean the store, and invites him to dinner at his house. When Shek says that they may have to close the store because of slow sales, Patrick works out a plan to help Ming save it.
The author, Yin, is Chinese-American, and is married to the illustrator, Chris Soenpiet. You can read a Q&A with Yin here, and see Chris Soenpiet’s thoughts about illustrating Brothers here.
It is not often that sequels are seen in children’s picture books, and this title is a nice exception to that trend. What is most refreshing about this story is Patrick’s complete acceptance of Ming, a person who is in every way different from himself. (Patrick’s family shares this characteristic.)
What I found lackcing is that there was no mention made of the prejudice Irish immigrants also faced at this time, which would have formed a common bond between Min and Patrick. Of course, 32 pages is just not enough space to give this aspect of the story the attention it would have needed. It is nevertheless a thoroughly charming and heartwarming story.
The story is augmented by the beautiful watercolor paintings of Chris Soenpiet, who excels at capturing detail, and who really outdoes himself here at depicting light on the human face. The cover illustration above is but one example.
Yin. Brothers. New York: Philomel-Penguin, 2006.
Illustrated by Chris Soenpiet. Includes author’s note and bibliography.