dragons gate

Note: This post is part of a series on School Library Media/Materials for a course

Yep, L. (1994). Dragon’s Gate.  New York: Harper Collins

Summary: Otter dreams of adventure working with his father in America rather than living a privileged life in China. An unfortunate series of occurrences in a restaurant helps to make his dream come true while confirming the adage “be careful what you wish for.” Readers follow Otter as he travels from China to America to work with his father and uncle on the transcontinental railroad in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1867. Despite his eagerness to venture to this new world, Otter finds himself alone and estranged from his father and uncle, finding that all the lofty goals and dreams they had fed their village may not have been true. Through Otter’s experiences we see as he comes to understand and reconcile the father and uncle he knew from China and the ones he sees in America.

Quantitative reading level: Lexile Level (from Lexile Find a book) 730L; ATOS Reading Level (from AR Book Finder) 5.3. Recommended interest level: Middle grades plus (6 & up)

Qualitative reading analysis (Text complexity analyzed using SCASS/Achieve the Core Literature rubric)

Text Structure: The text structure is moderately to very complex. There is one storyline, but it is more difficult to predict. Though chronologically organized, the characters are more complex. There is no use of graphics.

Language Features: I would consider the language of varying complexity. Conversationality is largely explicit but can be complex due to some figurative and abstract language. Vocabulary is mostly contemporary, familiar and conversational but occasionally can become subject or culturally specific and unfamiliar. Sentence structure is primarily simple and compound sentences with occasional complex constructions.

Meaning: The story contains multiple levels of meaning though is not drenched in symbolism. Meaning is mostly clearly distinguished otherwise. The theme is subtle and implicit at times leading to greater complexity and is revealed over the course of the text.

Knowledge demands: Themes are of varying levels of complexity. Experiences would be uncommon to most readers who were not familiar with the historical context and there are many allusions to cultural elements that lead the text to be considered more complex.

Content area: Fiction: US History & era, emigration, US Westward expansion

Content area standards:

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.

Applicable California Social Science/History Standards:

Students use a variety of maps and documents to interpret human movement, includingmajor patterns of domestic and international migration, changing environmental preferences and settlement patterns, the frictions that develop between population groups, andthe diffusion of ideas, technological innovations, and goods.

Students compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past eventsand decisions and determining the lessons that were learned.



Curriculum suggestions: This book would make a good supporting or supplemental text for American History. This book could be part of a series for history classes called “Fiction Friday” (as opposed to non-Fiction Friday) which provides fiction books that support ongoing curriculum.

Awards: 1994 Newbery Honor Book, Notable Children’s Books of 1994 (ALA), 1994 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library), 1993 “Pick of the Lists” (ABA), 1994 John and Patricia Beatty Award (California Library Association) 1994 Silver Medal for Literature (Commonwealth Club of America)

Series information: Golden Mountain Chronicles

Digital Content:

PBS American Experience

PBS Learning Media: Transcontinental Railroad