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Walk Across the Sea
Atheneum Books
for Young Readers
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Walk Across the Sea

By 1886 many of Eliza Jane McCully's neighbors are concerned that the growing immigrant Chinese population is threatening their way of life.

But it is a young Chinese boy named Wah Chung who saves Eliza and her pet goat from being swept into the sea by a deadly wave.

This makes Eliza wonder: Are the Chinese really people to be feared, as her father and their neighbors believe? Or are the Chinese immigrants people with whom the townspeople in Crescent City could live peaceably, with a little tolerance and understanding?

Resources

Book Discussion Guide from Multnomah County Library

A note from the author

Every so often I get obsessed by something, and I don't know exactly why. This happened with lighthouses, oh, sometime back in the 1980's. Each time I drove out to the coast of Oregon or Washington, I would check to see if there was a lighthouse nearby. If so, I would visit. I knew I wanted to write something set in a lighthouse, but for years, nothing clicked.

Then one day my parents, who lived in Brookings, Oregon, asked me if I'd like to visit the lighthouse in Crescent City, California, just a little way down the coast. The moment I saw this lighthouse, I knew it was the one.

For one thing, it looked just like a house. There was a spiral staircase inside, and if you kept going on up past the second floor, you found yourself in the lighthouse tower. Also, kids actually used to live in this lighthouse; they helped their parents tend the light. And finally, the lighthouse was on a tidal island. During high tide, the sea completely surrounded the hummock of land on which the lighthouse stood. But during low tide you could walk across the seabed to the mainland. Something about this drew me, this tidal island. Something that eventually connected with one of the book's themes. But at the time, it was only a feeling, and I couldn't have put it into words.

Still, I didn't yet have enough to write my story. While poking around the Crescent City Historical Society, I happened upon a 3x5 card on a wall, inscribed with a faded typewriter ribbon. The card told of the expulsion of the Chinese community from Crescent City in 1886. People were taken from their homes. Put in horse-drawn carts. Loaded onto ships and carried down to San Francisco.

I have to say, I was shocked. I had never heard of this. And it seemed to me this shameful chapter in American history ought to be known. And so Crescent City's Chinese expulsion became another part of the story I wanted to tell.

Awards and recognition

bullet Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year, 2002
bullet Book Links Lasting Connection title, 2001
bullet Children's Crown Award nominee
bullet Children's Literature Choice List, 2002
bullet Dorothy Canfield Fisher Master List 2007-08 (Vermont)
bullet Pacific Northwest Library Assn Young Reader's Choice nominee, 2004
bullet West Virginia Children's Book Award nominee
bullet Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist, 2002
bullet Women Writing in the West Willa Literary Award finalist, 2002
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