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Coolies by Yin is about two brothers who leave China and arrive in California to seek a better life. The only work available is on the transcontinental railroad. They face hardship, danger, poor working and living conditions and mistreatment by the Americans.
The vibrant watercolor illustrations make up the best part of the book. By themselves they paint the story of the Chinese who built the railroads and the terrible sacrifices they made in the process.
The story of Shek and Little Wong would stand alone fine but it's framed with a modern day scene where a child asks her mother or grandmother (I forget exactly) a grumpy question about a shrine set up to honor the ancestors. This part of the book feels forced and weakens the poignancy of Shek and Wong's story.