These posts always tend to stem from a review that gets far too long and I just want to talk about something. In this case it’s my experience as a reader, educator, librarian, and finally just a reader again encountering Laurence Yep. In case you are new here (and how did you land on this post first, go read my reviews or booklists first, they’re better), I’ll mention that I do enjoy and often recommend his books, although they have sometimes caused me some hassle.
I have a long, often fraught relationship with the works of Mr. Yep. He has written a lot of books, and is probably best known for either his Golden Mountain historical fiction series or his fantasy novels. He worked with major publishers so his books could be found at the library. The major pre-internet problem we had, though, was that many of his historical fiction works have dragon in the title. And some of his magical books give no indication that they are magical. And he also has historical fantasy. And sometimes the books would randomly get retitled.
So as a librarian, it was often difficult to figure out stuff like… what order the books go in, or which ones were even the same series. And even as the internet was more available, since he doesn’t have a website, it still wasn’t always clear. Sometimes the only way to figure it out was to read the books. I love reading, but reading under a time pressure irritates me. It irritates me only slightly less than handing the wrong books to two students who have respectively requested historical fiction and fantasy, an episode that still gives me occasional nightmares.
Therefore, this list of (some) of his books with whatever genre, time period, and series information I was able to find either from my own reading or from other sources. I’ll also add links for those I’ve reviewed so far.
Historical Fiction – Golden Mountain Chronicles
This is Yep’s epic series of Chinese-American novels, spanning ten books and 176 years of history. I haven’t reread any of these since before this blog, so this list is from Wikipedia and Goodreads, not my personal experience.
- The Serpent’s Children, set in 1849
- Mountain Light, 1855 (published 1985)
- Dragon’s Gate, 1867 (published 1993)
- The Traitor, 1885 (published 2003)
- Dragonwings, 1903 (published 1975)
- Dragon Road, 1939 (published 2007); originally The Red Warrior
- Child of the Owl, 1960 (published 1977)
- Sea Glass, 1970 (published 1979)
- Thief of Hearts, 1995 (published 1995)
- Dragons of Silk, 1835-2011 (published 2011)
Books for Existing Historical Fiction Series
Lady of Ch’iao Kuo: Warrior of the South (from the Royal Diaries series)
The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung (from the My Name is America series) also sold as “Staking a Claim”
Spring Pearl: The Last Flower (from the Girls of Many Lands series)
These, and the ones below, are all from large series which have many different authors working on various titles. I do find it interesting that Yep was picked to write Asian American protagonists for the historical fiction, but the American Girl books were white. Also of note is that he’s an author able to write either male or female protagonists well, when many MG authors choose just one or the other.
American Girl of the Year Books
2008: Mia and Bravo, Mia!
2014: Isabelle; Designs by Isabelle; and To the Stars, Isabelle
Yep’s 2008 books about figure skater Mia St. Clair seem to have been generally better received than 2014’s books about dancer Isabelle. At the time of the latter series, American Girl was starting to receive more widespread criticism for their decision to continually feature privileged white, able-bodied girls as the special girl of the year.
Historical Fiction – Ribbons Series
This series explores the world of a young half-Chinese dancer in 1990s San Francisco. Reviews seem to indicate that the historical context of Hong Kong plays a role in several of the books. Reviewers have also mentioned that each book correlates with a fairy tale in some way, so I’ve included that information as well.
- Ribbons (The Little Mermaid)
- The Cook’s Family (Peter Pan)
The Amah (companion novel; Cinderella)
- Angelfish (Beauty and the Beast)
There are three books following the main character as well as a related novel focusing on a different character. At the time of publication, these would have been contemporary fiction.
Other Historical Fiction
The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 covers exactly what the title suggests.
Hiroshima follows fictional twelve year old Sachi through the infamous nuclear bombing.
When the Circus Came to Town is about a young girl disfigured by smallpox in the 1870s and the Chinese worker who befriends her.
Fifteen-year-old Chinese American Joan Lee struggles to find herself amidst prejudice and puberty in 1927 West Virginia in The Star Fisher. Her family’s story continues in a Christmas book, Dream Soul.
A work which has fallen into disfavor is The Star Maker, the story of a boy in 1950s Chinatown desperate to set off firecrackers (a process now illegal in many places and no longer done by children in the rest) for Chinese New Year. This appears to have no connection to the previous title.
Seemingly out of print, The Mark Twain Murders is a historical mystery novel about a boy who helps Twain investigate a murder (series of murders?).
The Magic Paintbrush is a historical fantasy about a Chinese-American boy living in poverty with his immigrant grandfather and the troublesome but wonderful magic that transforms their lives.
Fantasy Series – the Dragon Quartet
I am familiar with these four books because I’ve been reviewing them for the blog. They appear to have gone out of print, but as of this writing, used copies are still readily available for a reasonable price.
Fantasy Series – City Trilogy
- City of Fire
- City of Ice
- City of Death
Fantasy Series – Tiger Apprentice Trilogy
This set is being reissued with new covers and possibly other updates!
- Tiger’s Apprentice: Book One
- Tiger’s Blood: Book Two
- Tiger Magic: Book Three
The plot of Sweetwater seems a bit confusing and these days, closer to reality than I’d like.
Seademons is another confusing science fiction novel that might be set in the same world.
A series of mysteries featuring action movie star Auntie Tiger Lil. For a long time this was the only widely available Asian children’s mystery series, but it was difficult to know what order the books were meant to be read in when requesting an inter-library loan.
- The Case of the Goblin Pearls
- The Case of the Lion Dance
- The Case of the Firecrackers
Realistic Fiction? Books About Brothers
These are contemporary fiction books which, depending on the details of the book and so on, will eventually be considered historical fiction. As far as I can tell, these aren’t yet dated enough to fall into a different category, but I could be wrong!
A boy gives his younger brother a baby alligator as a birthday present in Later, Gator.
In Cockroach Cooties, two brothers team up and use bugs to get a bully to leave them alone.
Two brothers are rivals in Skunk Scout, about a boy who wants to outdo his younger brother on a dreaded camping trip.
The Rainbow People is a distinctly Chinese American collection, focusing specifically on the Chinese stories that had most impact on the people who immigrated to America.
Less information is available online about the shorter collection Tongues of Jade, but it appears to be similar.
Besides the books listed in this post, Yep has also written a few nonfiction books. He’s the author of several plays, and has coauthored many books, including several with his wife Joanne Ryder. After some consideration, I decided to focus on his solely authored fiction in this post, excluding picture books, coauthored books, nonfiction, and other forms of writing.
I am most interested in reading his fantastical fiction, but also hope to work through the Golden Mountain series at some point in the near future, and would happily read others if they come my way. As I review books, I’ll do my best to link them back here, but check out his author tag to see the latest reviews, or works not included in this list.