The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing by George Chiang is a delightful children’s book that tells the adventures of Chiang’s grandfather when he first came to America in the 1880’s to work on the transcontinental railways on the West Coast. From a small farming village in Southern China’s Guangdong Province to the bustling metropolis of Guangzhou, where Sing and his companion Bo are kidnapped and shipped to Hong Kong, the pair eventually find themselves on the ship to North America, where their adventures begin. In the raw, untamed Canadian Pacific Rockies, the team of Chinese workmen face daily danger and death as they blast their way through the mountains to build the iron road on Gold Mountain. Despite the hardships and privations in the railroad camp Sing falls in love with this rugged country and decides ultimately to make his home there, among the indigenous population.
George Chiang has presented a beautiful children’s tale here in The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing. The book, with its simple, yet delightful illustrations, digitally drawn by Jessica Warner, would, I am sure, quickly become a favourite read for young people from about eight to twelve. It is just the type of book I could imagine reading to my grandchildren as they go to sleep. It is not too long to become boring and yet not too short to be rushed through in one sitting with a child. The personal connection that Chiang has with the principal character gives the whole story even more poignancy. The writing is perfectly suited to the target market age-group and the issues covered of immigration, race relations and the virtues of hard work are as topical and relevant today, as they were in the 1880’s. I can highly recommend this read for children of the age group. An excellent effort by George Chiang.