Nov 13, 2008

The House of Sixty Fathers

by Meindert DeJong

This is one of those books I always heard the title of, when young, but never got around to reading until I was older. College, I think. I had no idea what I'd find when I opened it. The House of Sixty Fathers is about a young Chinese boy named Tien Pao who lives in Hengyang during Japanese occupation in the late 1930's. While fleeing the Japanese army by boat, Tien Pao becomes separated from his family and ends up back behind enemy lines. His only companion is a pet pig (ridiculously named Glory of the Republic) who he has to keep from becoming someone's dinner (food being scarce) as well as trying to stay out of danger himself. Tien Pao goes through many adventures and frightfully close calls before finding a safe haven- with a bomb squad of American pilots (the sixty fathers of the title). While being nursed back to health in the American camp, Tien Pao hopes to find his family again, even though it seems utterly impossible...

The House of Sixty Fathers is a moving portrayal of a child's experience of wartime. It has plenty of historical information, presented in an unobtrusive manner which makes it easier to absorb. In spite of its many suspenseful moments, it still feels like a "quiet" book to me. The dialog flows easily, the prose is often lyrical, the illustrations by Maurice Sendak are lovely.

Rating: 3/5                      189 pages, 1956

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