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Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,781 Ratings  ·  162 Reviews
A classic Newbery Award winner, with an introduction by Katherine Paterson and new illustrations

When Young Fu arrives with his mother in bustling 1920s Chungking, all he has seen of the world is the rural farming village where he has grown up. He knows nothing of city life. But the city, with its wonders and dangers, fascinates the thirteen-year-old boy, and he sets out to
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 1932)
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The Giver by Lois LowryHoles by Louis SacharA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Most Deserving Newbery
78th out of 95 books — 2,430 voters
The Giver by Lois LowryA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'EngleHoles by Louis SacharNumber the Stars by Lois LowryBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Newbery Medal Winner Books
87th out of 95 books — 289 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 15, 2011 Jill rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery-medal
Given the year this book was written, it's a decent story. Compared with other Newberys of that period, that is. I'm glad I read it (only 2 more Newbery winners to go!!) but I wouldn't read it again.

"Always these foreigners must hurry," remarked the coppersmith. "They waste good time studying their watches. They hasten to earn money and hasten to spend it. Why then trouble to gain it? Careful spending increases riches."

"Shall I teach the Ancient Wisdom to one who wishes to use it only for the ea
"Medicines are bitter in the mouth, but they cure sickness." (Tang)

I really have hit my stride (or the right decade) on Newbery books! This book can best be classified as "charming". There are many lessons learned, lots of instances where the Asian concept of "respect" is so clearly different from the 2009 American one, and very good descriptions of (as much as can be imagined) what life might have been like in Chunking in that day. The negatives of course, are due to time and cultural dating --
Dec 28, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dahlene
I have never read a Newbery Award winner that I didn't like! This one was a lot different than most of them that I have read because it was published in 1932, so it has some older-style writing. So keep that in mind if you want to read a mindless book. The book is not that hard to read, because it is a young adult book, but the style took a little bit of concentration.

But let me just say this: I love China. I think it is the most fascinating place in the entire world. Sometimes I dream in Chines
Apr 21, 2009 Josiah rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Lewis writes a full story, fleshed out very well in all its details and with no consideration overlooked, in this surprisingly strong early Newbery Medal winner.
The 1930s, in my opinion, are a wonderful stronghold of magnificent Newbery books, and I would consider Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze to be one of its most deservedly proud offerings. The tenderly detailed descriptions of Young Fu's life and of the entire Chinese experience of the time period is enchanted and wonderful, and I
Apr 02, 2011 Andrea rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dallin
This book shows a Chinese community on the eve of communism. The author portrays the city through the eyes of a young coppersmith apprentice. I enjoyed the adventures and the dialogue. I liked that the book did not go into detail on foot binding (I've already read a graphic portrayal of that process and don't want to ever read about it again). I was curious to see how religion played a role in their lives before communism wiped out all religious displays. It appears from this book's account that ...more
Jul 13, 2014 Kathi rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery
So far, this is definitely my favorite of the “old Newberys,” winning the award in 1933.

Set in China in the 1920’s, the book combines worthwhile themes with very memorable characters with some Chinese history and culture, and even adds some sophisticated wry humor to the mix.

I feared midway that Young Fu was too good (actually, too "blessed"—my term) to be believable, and was glad that I was wrong. Likewise, my favorite character, Tang, is almost too wise to be real, but the bitterness that he
Sep 14, 2008 Wendy rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery
This was surprisingly enjoyable, given that the premise wasn't too different from DOBRY (but then, I'd always heard this was good). I thought the atmosphere was great--you really get an idea of what the streets of Chungking were like. And I thought Young Fu aged very seamlessly and believably during the book. I don't know anything about its accuracy/appropriation/cultural goodness. Will have to look up this new edition with the foreword by Katherine Paterson.
Nov 09, 2013 Amanda rated it liked it
I thought I would blast through this, considering that its a kid's book. It was a bit laborious at times, though. I think this is mainly due to the fact that it was written in 1932, and the manner of speaking was true to the culture--it just didn't always flow easily, but I think writing it otherwise would sacrifice too much. My having to read it only a few pages at a time did not help. Not my favorite, but overall it was enjoyable.
Jul 12, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, newbery
This 1933 Newbery winner tells of the coming of age of the titular Fu, a fourteen-year-old boy from the countryside who in the 1920s arrives in the vast city of Chungking (modern Chongqing) with his widowed mother. Apprenticed to Tang, a consummate coppersmith, Fu learns to temper his naïve curiosity, swallow his fears, face the bizarre novelty of foreign devils and gasoline-powered cars, and master his pride. Episode by episode, Fu grows wiser from his mistakes, and is a very likeable, sympathe ...more
Tricia Douglas
This was the 1932 Newbery Award book for children. I found the story very interesting and it provided much information about China in the 1920/30s. Young Fu was a strong character who moved from the farming area when his father died to Chungking, a noisy, dirty, bustling city. His excursions, problems, and worries are well-documented. My edition of this book provided extra information about China during that period and gave me a better picture of what Young Fu suffered through. Through a lot of ...more
James S.
Mar 13, 2012 James S. rated it really liked it
Great book. I loved how it conveyed the message of what 1920's China was like and how different it is from today. It also conveys how a thirteen year old boy would live in China: Young Fu had very little education, mostly because he lived on a farm for ten years, then being apprenticed to a smith and learning life lessons that most of us don't learn these days. Through hard work and humility, Young Fu gained respect from others. The book also showed the unfairness of life and the fact that not e ...more
Jul 25, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it
A friend who has been to China recommended this book as part of my China reading. I was surprised to see it was first published in 1932. It is a well written young adult book with a nice coming of age message, but what I really liked was the picture of everyday life in China at this period. The turmoil of the times is shown as it would affect a young boy and the author does a good job of showing the conflict of the old ways and the new. It may have been a bit rosy in terms of the boy's life but ...more
Gokul Nair
Mar 09, 2014 Gokul Nair rated it liked it
Chungking is a Chinese city in the 1920s where soldiers will shoot men who will not carry a load, where bandits will ambush travelers on a river, where plagues, fires, and floods ravage its narrow streets. In this crowded metropolis, we meet a small twelve year old boy of the name, Young Fu.
Young Fu a curious boy has moved from the plain countryside with his busy bodied mom, Fu Bebe, to be apprenticed to the great coppersmith Tang in order to support his family. Life is hard, Young Fu must pu
Shannon Duncan
Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze was written by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, an American children's author who lived in China for part of her life. It was first published by Henry Holt and Company in 1932 and won the 1933 Newbery Medal. On its seventy-fifth anniversary, it was reillustrated by William Low and the new edition included a foreward by Katherine Paterson. It also includes notes at the back explaining Chinese culture. This edition is only available as a paperback.

In the 1920's, Fu Yiun-fa, k
I wanted to like this book. Due o to the nature of the time-frame that it was written, I think it was for the most part accurate. Much like the Good Earth, I think it provides valid insight, but to a degree dated. That being said, however, I seemed to have more interest in the glossary and notes at the end of the book than the actual story. I think this is partially due to the fact that it was a westerner who wrote the book that gives it's the minor holes that just seem to get under my skin. Hav ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Courtney rated it really liked it
I read this book, thinking that it might be a good choice for my 5th grade son who enjoys historical fiction. I don't know yet what his opinion will be, but I certainly enjoyed it as an adult (who is WELL beyond 5th grade). The story was well-written, with mostly believable characters. I appreciated the elements of wisdom, respect for elders, and integrity that were conveyed throughout the book by the main character and his associates. The benevolent coppersmith, the kind foreign woman, and the ...more
Oct 30, 2015 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1933 Newbery Medal Winner

This book was a surprise for me. As I started to read, my initial impression was that I would not like it. Within a chapter, it had hooked me.

Young Fu and his mother, Fu Be Be, move to the city after his father dies and they are no longer able to make a living as farmers. His mother has obtained an apprenticeship for him with Tang the coppersmith. Tang proves to be a good master as Young Fu learns his trade and other lessons the hard way, such as buying a worthless watch
Benji Martin
Jul 23, 2014 Benji Martin rated it really liked it
I have to admit that when I first picked Young Fu it up off of the shelf in my school library, I muttered an unrepeatable word under my breath. Not only was it another Newbery set in the Far East (the previous winners set in Asia were usualy boring, and sometimes a bit racist) but it was a thick, heavy book. Luckily though, the size was misleading. The way it was printed makes it look like a 500-600 page novel, but in reality it was really about 250 pages. For me the story was absolutely charmi ...more
Ryan S.
Mar 16, 2014 Ryan S. rated it really liked it
"Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze," created by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis, and illustrated by William Low, is a realistic fictional story in which Young Fu, the protagonist, encounters the problems associated with life in general. It is around the 1920s in Chungking, China, and Young Fu had just moved into the urban city after his father had died. Even at age 13, he becomes an apprentice to Tang, a master coppersmith. In this book, an uneducated boy must work hard in order to actually live, for he is ...more
Mar 03, 2008 Kim rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent coming of age story - it is another Newberry Award winner. It has been several years since I have read this but remember being fascinated. The foot-binding that Chinese women subjected themselves to all in the name of status was horrifying but eye opening as well.
Jul 20, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery
Surprisingly readable for a children's book from the 1930s. The narrator is likable, and the story moves along well enough. There were, of course, the problem that arises when an outsider is describing a different culture or time, simplifying things into stereotypes. Typical of books of the time, we follow a young boy born into a peasant class as he works hard to improve his position. The story is entirely predictable. He acquires wealth and prestige through his own goodness as well as moments o ...more
Kayla Loewen
Oh, I love it!!!
Dec 31, 2013 Debbie added it
84 1933: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (Winston)

9/12/13 257 pages

At the book begins, Young Fu and his mother are moving to the large city of Chungking from the country. Fu's father has died and his mother has arranged for him to be an apprentice of Tang, a coppersmith. The book follows his next five years as he completes his apprenticeship and then continues to work in the shop. Fu obtains special opportunities to learn and to use his skills while at the same time making some
Carl Nelson
Feb 11, 2014 Carl Nelson rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-winners
1933 Newbery Medal recipient.

Rich and satisfying tale of young farm boy Young Fu who goes to Chungking to be apprenticed to a coppersmith. He finds success and fulfillment through a combination of hard work, luck, virtue, and intelligence. Young Fu is an earnest, likable character, and I felt for his mistakes and enjoyed his successes. The author makes China of the period between the deposition of the last emperor and the rise of the nationalist government come to life, providing colorful descri
Feb 09, 2013 Emily rated it liked it
A Newbery book I loved as a youth.
Todd Luallen
May 29, 2015 Todd Luallen rated it it was amazing
This book was thoroughly enjoyable in both teaching about period Chinese culture, and in the wonderful fictional story of a boy coming of age. I read this book with my daughter for her school and I think I may have enjoyed it a bit more than she did. I don't always agree with the awards given to books, but in this case I think it is well deserved. The story is a real page turner, and the education you get about Chinese culture comes at you without the need for long descriptions of tedious detail ...more
Aug 08, 2013 Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: newbery, historical
This was an interesting book that I enjoyed. It was pretty episodic in nature (a trend I'm noticing in the Newbery awards. I wonder if that is because the more plot-driven stories tend not to win awards, or whether it is a function of reading a lot of older books? A lot of my favorite older stories tend to be episodic, like Anne of Green Gables or Little Women.)

The characterization was well done. Young Fu is impetuous at times and does not always make the best decisions, which may have been mor
Jun 05, 2013 Tammy rated it really liked it
Thirteen year-old Young Fu and his mother must move away from their farm in central China after his father dies and move to the city of Chungking (now spelled Chongqing. Young Fu and his mother have never been to the city before. While he is full of excitement and looking for adventure she is afraid of all the strange customs of the city and the foreigners who live there. Young Fu is apprenticed to Tang, a master coppersmith. The book is set in the 1920s a turbulent time for China it is after th ...more
Aug 03, 2013 Mirrani rated it it was amazing
Young Fu is an apprentice and as many apprentice stories, this book describes the trials of having to serve a master. Fu's master is a kind one, though he certainly commands respect and with this combination readers learn how to make good choices in their lives through experiencing the boy's decisions and the consequences of each path chosen in relation to those around him. Becoming someone that others value is often difficult when you feel as if you are just another person out on the street and ...more
I bought this book in a second-hand shop expecting slightly sensational, probably mildly racist novel in a 19th/early 20th century way.

What I hadn't realised was that it was a children's novel; and one that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1933.

Young Fu is an a attractive character, a kind, curious and hardworking teenager who occasionally makes foolish mistakes but who then does his best to learn his lesson.

He and his mother move to 1920s Chongqing - t
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