Alone in a sampan with his pig and three ducklings, a little Chinese boy is whirled down a raging river, back to the town from which he and his parents had escaped the invading Japanese, and spends long and frightening days regaining his family and new home.
Original publication date
This is one of the best historical fiction books I've ever read. One of the best parts was Tien Pao's relationship with the little pig who is his constant companion. It was heartbreaking when he was separated from his beloved family and then heartbreaking again when he was reunited. This book also opened my eyes to the kindness of human beings. A old woman risked her life to help the resistance and Tien Pao and eventually paid the absolute price for it. This book also gave me insight on how much a different culture can affect someone in a positive way. I stayed up all night reading this book, and it was truly awakening. I highly recommend this book.
This 1957 Newbery Honor book reinforced what I learned. This is a tale of the Japenese invasion of China. As they systematically descerated the land, murdering the poor peasants, bullets shot throughout the air, finding helpless targets, and in the aftermath, red fire raged through the huts, burning livestock and people within.
This is a tale of Tien Pao, a brave little boy whose family fled their village in the only remaining sampan. Rowing day and night to move further internally, they finally found a place to moor their sampan. Exhausted and hungry, Tien Pao's mother carried his baby sister on her back and she and his father sought work.
Leaving Tien Pao alone during the day with only the family pig for company. Lonely, he watched as a group of water buffalo played dangerously close to the sampan. Unaware that one of them loosened the rope that bound the sampan to the shore, Tien Pao driffed alone as the current took him right back into the mountainous territory where the Japenese were now invading.
In his journey, he miraculously rescuing an American solidier. When they were found by Chinese resistance fighters, the solidier was sheltered and then returned to his troop. Keeping Tien Pao with them, they felt it a mission to try to return him to his parents. As the fighting increased, they were not able to do so.
Once again, alone and frightened, Tien Pao was rescued. This time by American solidiers who whisked him to their barricks. As 65 men became his father, he was grateful, but still, knowing despite all odds, he vowed to find his parents.
Thoroughtout his journies, his trusted friend the pig, now called "Beauty of the Republic", accompanied him in his sheer determination to be reunited with his biological parents.
The miraculous happy ending is okay, but the emphasis is on "miracle".
The presence of Americans in China is never explained, nor why they would be so helpful, other than as sixty dei ex machine.
(Was this supposed to be based on a true story somehow? Per Wiki, the author was a pilot like the ones I the book.)
Style: I hate back-stitched beginnings. There was no reason not to start with the Tien family running for their lives, other than as a cheap hook -- which is terribly confusing for younger readers. Also, the title leads one to expect more time in the "House" than just the final couple of chapters.
Plus, one of my own pet peeves: the baby's Chinese name is rendered in English, to give a reason for the name of the pig - why doesn't Tien Pao have his name in English, or at least reference the other two in Chinese.