Dragon Wing (1990) is a fantasy novel by American authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the first book in their Death Gate Cycle series. Following the Rose of the Prophet trilogy, Weis and Hickman embarked on an ambitious seven-volume series that began with Dragon Wing. As described by the publisher, "Preeminent storytellers Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have redefined epic fantasy. Since the publication of their Dragonlance series, millions of readers have enjoyed their imaginative world-building, rich characterization, and intricate storylines. Now these bestselling authors bring their talents to one of the most innovative fantasy creations ever in Dragon Wing, the first volume in The Death Gate Cycle."
Arianus, the World of Air, is composed entirely of porous floating islands, aligned in three basic altitudes. In the Low Realm, the dwarves (called "Gegs", an elven word for "insects") live on the continent Drevlin and cheerfully serve the giant Kicksey-winsey, a city-sized machine that is the source of all water in Arianus. In the Mid Realm, elves and humans have warred for centuries with each other and amongst themselves for water, status, and advantage. Above them all in the High Realm live the Mysteriarchs, isolationist human wizards of the Seventh House rank. They were some of the most powerful wizards of their kind, leaving fellow humans behind in their disgust for the constant warfare, but they never equalled the likes of the missing Sartan and Patryn races.
In the Realm of sky, humans, elves, and dwarves battle for control of precious water—traversing a world of airborne islands on currents of elven magic and the backs of mammoth dragons. But soon great magical forces will begin to rend the fabric of this delicate land.
The assassin Hugh the Hand is about to be executed when he is rescued by Trian, the wizard who serves the human King Stephen. Trian gives him a contract to kill the child of King Stephen and his wife Queen Anne. The child is called Bane. Hugh thinks that Bane is being killed against the will of Queen Anne, but it is revealed after his departure that Anne and Stephen are allied in wanting Bane dead. Hugh departs with Bane, who's a creepy but beautiful and endearing child, and soon after they leave a man called Alfred catches up with them. Alfred is a courtier and serves Prince Bane, but he appears very weak and easily threatened, and keeps fainting whenever he is afraid.
They get close to Hugh's concealed dragon ship (an elven ship that he stole) and Hugh thinks that Bane has been killed by a falling shard from the glass trees, but by the time Hugh gets to the scene he is alive again. Then Hugh, Alfred and Bane start to fly to one of the other islands, but Bane poisons Hugh and the ship plunges down towards Drevlin and the Maelstrom.
Haplo, a Patryn, has arrived in Arianus through Death's Gate, the first Patryn to venture through it. He has been sent by his lord, Xar, to explore the world, because no Patryns have visited the worlds since the Sundering. Xar rescued Haplo from the Labyrinth, where he and all the other Patryn have struggled against countless monsters. In preparation for visiting mensch worlds ("mensch" being the derogatory term Patryns and Sartans use to refer to humans, elves and dwarves) he wears long clothes and has covered his neck and hands in bandages, to hide the runes tattooed all over his skin, that he uses to perform magic.
Haplo is not prepared for the strain of going through Death's Gate, which nearly destroys his ship. He crashes on one of the lower islands of Drevlin. He is found by a dwarf, Limbeck, who was thrown off the main Drevlin island for speaking against the leader of the dwarfs and encouraging them to question things, and work out why things are the way they are.
Jarre, Limbeck's girlfriend, and her allies rescue Limbeck from the lower island, as they planned, but Haplo comes up with him, and Haplo's dog. Limbeck thinks Haplo is a god but he says he is not a god. Shortly after Haplo and Limbeck get back to the main island of Drevlin, Hugh, Alfred and Bane crash land there in Hugh's dragon ship.
Limbeck's followers clash with the other dwarves, though neither side is particularly fierce or violent. In the confusion, Alfred falls over against the base of a statue in the centre of Drevlin, the statue that the dwarves call the "Manger". He opens a door below the base of the statue, and goes in, but then Jarre also falls down it and it closes behind her. She is terrified, having never been in this part of Drevlin before, but Alfred reassures her, and leads her through chambers near the heart of the Kicksey-Winsey. One such chamber is a mausoleum, which she realises is full of the dead of Alfred's people, and she sympathises with his grief. Alfred is a Sartan, but all the other Sartan that he used to live with in these chambers are now long dead. Alfred then leads Jarre back out of the Sartan chambers.
Another elven ship arrives to claim the regular tribute of water, to take back to their lands in the Mid Realm. The dwarves, led by Limbeck, refuse to give up the water and are in danger of being attacked until the elven lieutenant, furious at the cowardice and cruelty of the elven captain, mutinies against the elven captain and kills him. He is not the first elf to rebel -- many other elves have started rebelling against their emperor in recent years.
Bane reveals that his father is a mysteriarch who purposely swapped him with Stephen and Anne's child soon after it was born, so that he could grow up and take over the Mid Realms in his father's name. Bane persuades the elven lieutenant to take him, Hugh, Alfred, Haplo and Limbeck to the High Realm to visit his father Sinistrad. Bane has been communicating with his father all his life, via a magical feather amulet. Over the course of the book it has become clear that Bane has magical power to make people love him (a spell cast by his father), and he is also able to manipulate people, but that he also wants to be loved by his father, and hopes to rule Mid Realm side by side with him.
On the way up to the High Realm Alfred uses a spell to send Haplo to sleep and sneaks a look under the bandages on his hands, and discovers that he is a Patryn, but Alfred does not know what to do with that information. Haplo is suspicious of him in turn, but has not guessed what he is.
Sinistrad tells his wife Iridal, who lives in terror of him, that their child, Bane, is coming up to see them, and she looks forward to being reunited with her child. Their High Realm is dying, because their magic cannot sustain life up there, where the air gets too thin and there is too little water. When the elven ship arrives, Sinistrad puts on the illusion that there is a large population of happy mysteriarchs to welcome them and lead them through an apparently beautiful city.
Sinistrad gives them a feast and tries to get Haplo to tell him more about what he is. Sinistrad also talks a lot to Bane, getting Bane to tell him all about the Kicksey-Winsey, because Bane has worked out what it does. But Bane is disappointed that his father treats him harshly, not lovingly, and talks of himself ruling alone, not alongside Bane.
Hugh falls in love with Iridal, and she with him, though he rejects Sinistrad's suggestive comments about them.
Bane tells Alfred that he knows Alfred is a Sartan, and Haplo overhears. Bane knows his father's plan is to drive the "Gegs" (the dwarves of Drevlin) to war, and to take over all the lower realms. Bane, knowing Alfred's magical powers, wants Alfred to help him take over instead, starting by killing Sinistrad. Alfred refuses to kill anyone. Alfred realises he might have been wrong to bring Bane back to life back when he was impaled by a glass tree shard. Haplo's dog enters and stops Alfred from leaving, and Haplo comes and confronts him. He tells him of what the Patryns had to endure after being cast into the Labyrinth by the Sartan, and Alfred tells him the Sartan never intended the Labyrinth to be a torment, and that the Sartan have since had troubles of their own.
Bane gives up on them both and goes off to kill his father. Iridal confronts Sinistrad, to save Bane, and Hugh gets himself killed saving Iridal -- Sinistrad poisons him just before he dies himself. Once Sinistrad is dead, his dragon is free from his control and starts to attack the palace. Haplo drives it off for long enough to escape in the elven ship with the elf lieutenant (now captain), and Bane, and the dog. Iridal remains in the High Realm with Alfred. The elven ship joins the elven rebel army and Haplo returns through Death's Gate to his lord in the Nexus, taking Bane to be his lord's protege.
- Alfred Montbank
Bane's servant, whose body is disproportionate and causes him to be embarrassingly clumsy. He appears unassuming, but has secrets of his own.
Prince of the Mid Realm, and changeling child of mysteriarch Sinistrad. He is enchanting, in every sense of the word, using his supernaturally enhanced charisma to convince even the man hired to kill him to let him live. He lives to please his father, the only person in the world who will not love him.
A loner, Haplo misses little but keeps his own counsel. Mild and almost unassuming for most of the book, he is nonetheless driven by his mission. Haplo is a Patryn, the ancient enemy of the Sartan, and is sent by his lord to scout the worlds before the Patryn conquest his lord has planned.
- Hugh the Hand
An infamous assassin, Hugh was raised by Kir Monks after the death of his mother. His father, an aristocrat, abandoned Hugh's mother shortly after his birth. Hugh took revenge on his father after leaving the Kir Monks, sending himself down a path that would eventually lead to him becoming the most feared assassin in Arianus.
Limbeck's girlfriend, who must constantly deal with his absent-minded ways. She is very supportive of him despite being not-so-keen on his unusual vision.
- King Stephen
The current king of the human realm, ruler of both Volkaran and Uylandia via his marriage to Queen Anne. Though the marriage was originally for political convenience, the two have come to love one another dearly.
- Limbeck Bolttightener
A dwarf with too many questions, he is awed by much of what he sees over the course of the book. He has not lost his childlike capacity to wonder, a value that Jarre (at least) values highly. He is considerably myopic.
- Lord of the Nexus
Leader of the Patryns and the first of their race to escape the Labyrinth. It is he who learns of the existence of Death Gate and the four worlds. At this point in the series, he is also the only one of his people to return to the Labyrinth, saving the lives of his fellow people.
Leader of the mysteriarchs and true father of Bane. He has lofty ambitions to extend his power over all of the realms, and plans to do so through his son, Bane, and other unknown methods.
Literary significance and reception
The book hit the bestseller lists for Locus, Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton.
Dragon Wing has been licensed and translated into many languages, including Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
“As I lay down on my mat and pulled the blanket up about my neck, it seemed to me that if this was the case, the demoness would surely be reborn as a rich Tang woman in her next life. I even toyed with the idea that perhaps we had been close to each other in some former life – a mother and child, even.”
“I came to help,” Uncle snapped. “Not because I believe in your crazy dream. Call it an old man’s whim if you like.” But then Uncle relented for a moment. “And we didn’t come to laugh. There will be those among the Tang people who will laugh – but now they will have to laugh at all of us, for we’ll share in your folly.”
“And all of a sudden I saw that if life seems awfully petty most of the time, every now and then there is something noble and beautiful and almost pure that lifts us suddenly out of the pettiness and lets us share in it a little. It did not matter whether Father flew or not. It was enough that the Company had come.”
″[Father’s] letters were certainly warm enough, filled with his worries about us and his longing to be back home. But a man cannot be a father in a letter.”
“I wish more than ever that I could be with you right now, for your father has undertaken no small task; but since I cannot be there, you must love him doubly hard. You must give him not only your own support, but also try to give him mine as well.”
“It was kind of scary. One day we were living in a law-abiding community and the next day the city and the community had both dissolved, with every person for himself. It struck me that Father and I had probably walked by this house, feeling as safe as we could feel in a demon street, many times, and now here we were hiding behind what was left of it, trying to keep from getting shot.”
[Father] hung his head for the longest time, staring down at his hands. I could only think of some immortal who had suddenly woken one morning to find himself in a man’s body and realized he was being punished. For the second time in my life, I made an important decision to be with him. “I want to fly too, Father,” I said.
“It’s Mother who has to listen to [everyone in the village] laughing,” I pointed out. “I wish I could spare her that.” Father chewed the end of the brush’s wooden handle. “We have the easy part. All we have to do is fly. She has to live in the village.”
“But finally it was time for me to return to my mortal world. It was reluctantly that the Lord said good-bye to me and added, “We will save a place at the banquet table for you. You will be eating with us soon, though, if you just remember to watch for the tests and hold to the dragon-ness within that softskin body. Now fare you well.”
“It will go on after me, for this Company is an idea. It is a dream – a dream that is much older than you or I and only slightly younger than the world: Men must help one another in dangerous times and places.”
“These are wings, if you have the courage to use them,” the Lord said. I looked dubiously at the wings. They seemed fragile things. But I was ashamed to let the Lord see me frightened after all the things he had said about the former me.
“No,” Father let out his breath in a rush. “No. I’m sick of having to deal with thieves and pimps and pushers. I’m sick of having to scrape and bow to men who live off the misery of their brothers and sisters. […] Don’t you see? We’re all tainted by it. As long as we keep quiet and let it go on, we’re as bad as they are. It eats at them; it eats at us.”
“I had found my mountain of gold, after all, and it had not been nuggets but people who had made it up: people like the Company and the Whitlaws. I had not realized until I had left it that I had been on the mountain of gold all that time.”
“He was my father and yet he was a stranger to me. I had never seen him. I thought to myself, How can we ever speak to one another? He’s as strange to me as a demon.”
“There were groceries and herbal shops, clothing shops and laundries, halls that housed the brotherhoods or the district associations or the offices of family clans. Uncle pointed out the building of the district from which any family came and to which I could go for help. Besides that there was the Lee family building, which would help everyone who was named Lee.”
“Miss Whitlaw had a smile like the Listener, She Who Hears Prayers, who refused release from the cycle of lives until all her brothers and sisters too could be freed from sin.”
“The Company’s days were filled with cheerful shouting and singing and swearing and hammering. We were putting up a new building, one made of stone and guaranteed to last a century. It was hard work, but it was exhilarating – the kind of feeling that comes from being alive and taking part in some great common enterprise.”
“Moon Shadow, you once asked me who or what caused the earthquake. I don’t know. It could have been the gods, or dragons, or demons, or it could have simply been a natural event. It doesn’t matter, supernatural or natural; it means the same. This life is too short to spend it pursuing little things. I have to do what I know I can and must do.”
Black Dog looked at me intently. “Why shouldn’t we get some pleasure in this life? Why later? Why not now?” “Because we don’t owe things just to ourselves. There are others.”
“I don’t think the demons were necessarily bad for not wanting to help others. They might have been scared, or so shocked they could not really know how selfish they were being.”
“I think the reason Uncle had originally been so strict with Father was that he thought of Father as his spiritual son. He hoped that Windrider would be everything that Uncle had once wished Black Dog to be. And like any parent with a child, Uncle was hurt and angry when Windrider did not behave as Uncle wanted. But then, with Dragonwings, Uncle came to accept the fact that he was not always right.”
“I’m not going to build another Dragonwings. When I was up there on it, I found myself wishing you were up there, and your mother with you. And I realized I couldn’t have the two of them together: my family and flying. And just as I saw the hill coming at me, I realized that my family meant more to me than flying. It’s enough for me to know that I can fly.”
“I stared at the brick as it slid across the clean, worn, wooden floor, and at the glass that scattered about my feet. Outside I could hear jeers and shouts. For one moment I glimpsed howling, sweating, red-and-white faces, distorted into hideous masks of hatred and cruelty, a sea of demon heads that bobbed restlessly outside our store. I could not understand the words they were growling out, but their intention was plain. They wanted to burn and loot and hurt. Looking into that huge mass of faces was like looking into the ugliest depths of the human soul.”
“Perhaps…” Miss Whitlaw tapped a finger against her lips for a moment. “Perhaps the truth of the dragon lies somewhere in between the American and the Chinese versions. He is neither all-bad nor all-good, neither all-destruction nor all-kind. He is a creature particularly in tune with Nature, and so, like Nature, he can be very, very kind or very, very terrible. If you love him, you will accept what he is. Otherwise he will destroy you.”
“I was proud of Father for wanting to be a dragon again, and even prouder of the fact that he was now so close to achieving his ambition to fly. I was just sorry that we had not been able to combine his more lofty goals with the more ordinary dream of seeing Mother.”
“During the next year, I learned that the Company was more than a group of men wanting money. We were brothers: strangers in a strange land who had banded together for mutual help and protection. There were arguments, of course, but they were always worked out.”
1975 novel by Laurence Yep
Dragonwings is a children'shistorical novel by Laurence Yep, published by Harper & Row in 1975. It inaugurated the Golden Mountain Chronicles (below) and it is the fifth chronicle in narrative sequence among ten published as of 2012. The book is used in school classrooms and has been adapted as a play under its original title. Yep and Dragonwings won the Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association in 1995, recognizing the best children's book published twenty years earlier that did not win a major award. It had been a runner-up for the annual Newbery Medal.
Dragonwings features the Chinese American experience in the United States, specifically San Francisco, shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.
The protagonist is Moon Shadow Lee, or in the Chinese order, Lee Moon Shadow. Moon Shadow grew up in China, having never seen his father, who had traveled to "The Golden Mountain" in America and worked hard in a family laundry which served the "white demons" (Americans). When Moon Shadow is nine (eight in American calculation), a distant relative, Hand Clap, returns to China for a visit and when Hand Clap returns to the United States, Moon Shadow goes with him. Moon Shadow is soon reunited with his father and receives a few wonderful gifts from his father, uncle, and new friend. From his uncle he receives a pair of new black leather boots. From his new friend he receives some trousers and a shirt. Finally, he receives a beautiful kite from his father, for whom kite making is a specialty. Moon Shadow found out that Windrider, his father, had a dream of a great dragon king. Windrider had found out he was a dragon in his former life and was determined to be worthy enough to again become a dragon. Moon Shadow supported and encouraged Windrider, even as they suffered hardships like the Great Earthquake, their poverty, and the gap between the Tang and white demons (Americans). He goes through situations with family and has to find his place in life.
Part of the story is based on an actual event that took place in 1909 involving a young Chinese flier named Fung Joe Guey.
The CLA Phoenix Award is named for the mythical bird phoenix, which is reborn from its ashes, to suggest the winning book's rise from obscurity during twenty years since its publication. But Dragonwings was not unrecognized in 1975. It was a runner-up (Honor Book) for both the American Library Association Newbery Medal, recognizing the year's best U.S. children's book, and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for children's fiction. It won an International Reading Association Children's Book Award and it made School Library Journal and The New York Times annual booklists.
Dragonwings was adapted as a stage play by the author in 1991, commissioned by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. It premiered as a school tour in the San Francisco Bay Area and was directed by Phyllis S.K. Look. The play was published by Dramatists Play Service in 1993.
Golden Mountain Chronicles
The family saga follows the Young family, initially in China. Dragons of Silk (2011) spans a few generations and brings the story to the present; nine previous novels have been dated 1849 to 1995.
- The Serpent's Children, set in 1849 (1984)
- Mountain Light, 1855 (1985)
- Dragon's Gate, 1867 (1993)
- The Traitor, 1885 (2003)
- Dragonwings, 1903 (1975)
- Dragon Road, 1939 (2007); originally The Red Warrior
- Child of the Owl, 1960 (1977)
- Sea Glass, 1970 (1979)
- Thief of Hearts, 1995 (1995)
- Dragons of Silk, 1835–2011 (2011)
In order of year of publication:
- Dragonwings, 1903 (1975)
- Child of the Owl, 1960 (1977)
- Sea Glass, 1970 (1979)
- The Serpent's Children, set in 1849 (1984)
- Mountain Light, 1855 (1985)
- Dragon's Gate, 1867 (1993)
- Thief of Hearts, 1995 (1995)
- The Traitor, 1885 (2003)
- Dragon Road, 1939 (2007); originally The Red Warrior
- Dragons of Silk, 1835–2011 (2011)
Four of the ten historical novels are among Yep's five works most widely held in WorldCat libraries.Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate were runners-up for the Newbery Medal; Child of the Owl won the Horn Book Award.
Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
It is 1903 in China, and 7 year old Moon Shadow lives with his mother and grandmother on the family farm. Moon Shadow has never met his father, as he moved to America to work before Moon Shadow was born. But soon enough, his father, Windrider, sends for the young boy to come to America to live with him and learn to work. When Moon Shadow arrives in the Tang people’s village in San Francisco, California, he has no idea what is in store for him and his father. Dragonwings is an incredible historical fiction novel about the challenges that the Chinese immigrants faced in the early 1900s. It was a time of racism, drugs, and poverty, but also a time for hope and big dreams. Dragonwings is a true inspiration and a wonderful story of courage, family, and believing that you can do whatever you set your mind to.
Student Activities for Dragonwings
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At just seven years old, Moon Shadow Lee leaves his home in China to be with his father, Windrider, in America. He meets many male family members in Tang village in San Francisco, California. His family, known as The Company, runs a laundromat together and are very close. Moon Shadow learns how cruel the “white demons” can be as he witnesses looting and racism at its worst. He learns of his father’s dream when he met The Dragon King and realizes his love for gadgets and his dream of building an airplane.
One day, when Moon Shadow and Windrider are delivering laundry, they help a white man named Mr. Alger with his car troubles. Mr. Alger proves to be a good man, and tells Windrider about an opportunity outside of Tang village. Around the same time, Moon Shadow’s cousin Black Dog, a young man with a lot of troubles including opium addiction, beats up Moon Shadow and steals the laundromat’s money from him. Knowing that he needs to leave the village to protect his son, Windrider takes Mr. Alger up on his offer. Windrider and Moon Shadow move into a stable behind a boarding house belonging to Miss Whitlaw. Moon Shadow and Windrider take to Miss Whitlaw immediately, and Moon Shadow becomes friendly with her niece, Robin.
Moon Shadow is teased and tormented by the neighborhood boys, and begins to fear leaving the stable. Robin helps him by telling him that the leader, Jack, is afraid of blood, and advises Moon Shadow to punch him in the nose the next time he gangs up on him. The plan works, and Moon Shadow and Jack declare a mutual respect for one another. With the help of Miss Whitlaw, Moon Shadow writes a letter to the Wright Brothers, asking them about building a plane. To his surprise, they respond, and Windrider begins building a model plane.
When the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 hits, their neighborhood is destroyed, and many lose their lives. Moon Shadow, Windrider, Miss Whitlaw, and Robin work hard to recruit help and save those buried in the rubble. Fires spread and people panic. Miss Whitlaw and Robin leave town, and as the fires die down, Windrider, Moon Shadow, and the Company work together with the Tang community to rebuild the village.
After all has settled down, Windrider decides to pursue his dream of building an airplane that can actually fly. He and Moon Shadow move to a barn in Oakland, and Moon Shadow gets a job as a grocery delivery boy while Windrider spends his time building the plane, which they have named Dragonwings. They are met with trouble when Black Dog robs them of their savings, but they do not let the setback shut them down. When the plane is finally ready to be tested, the whole Company helps them pull Dragonwings up the hill, and Windrider feels loved and supported by his family. He joyfully flies the plane for a short time, and although it ends up crashing and leaving Windrider with some broken bones, he feels accomplished and full of joy. The Company takes Windrider on as a partner at the laundromat, and he sends for his wife to finally join them after all of these years.
Dragonwings is a beautifully written story about hope, family, and never giving up on your dreams. Students and teachers will enjoy this novel either in book clubs or as an independent reading unit.
Essential Questions for Dragonwings
- What are some of the challenges that Moon Shadow faces throughout the novel?
- When and where does the novel take place? Why is this important to the story?
- How does Moon Shadow change from the beginning to the end of the book?
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Dragonwings is a children’s historical novel by Chinese-American author Laurence Yep, first published in 1975. It is the first installment in the Golden Mountain Chronicles, a ten-novel series continued between 1984 and 2011, which follows the Young family in their journey over several generations, from 1835 to 2011, beginning in China. Dragonwings is set in 1903 and follows the story of a boy named Moon Shadow Lee who grows up in China without his father, who has gone to America to earn money. Moon Shadow accompanies a relative to America when he is nine and is reunited with his father, receiving a gift from him: a handmade kite. The story is partially based on real events that took place in 1909. The book explores themes of friendship, family, dreams, and the true meaning of home, as well as portraying the Chinese immigrant experience in the early twentieth century. It has been widely praised for its detailed, well-researched depiction of the time period, and is frequently taught in schools as an introduction to this period of American history. Dragonwings was a runner-up for the Newbery Medal upon its release, as well as winning an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award. In 1995, it won the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association, which recognized it as the best book published twenty years prior that hadn’t won any major awards that year. It was adapted into a play in 1991 by the author, and performed at theaters around California.
As Dragonwings begins, seven-year-old Moon Shadow Lee lives on his family farm in China. The year is 1903, and he has never met his father, who has gone to work in America. Moon Shadow enjoys stories his mother tells about his father, a master kite-maker. His father, Windrider, eventually sends word for Moon Shadow to come to America and live with him. When Moon Shadow arrives, he meets the rest of his family abroad, including their leader, Uncle Bright Star, chef White Deer, poet Left, and the boastful Hand Clap. Called the Company, they run a laundromat in the Tang Chinese village in San Francisco. However, on Moon Shadow’s first night, the laundromat is attacked by what Moon Shadow calls “demons”– white American bigots who throw a brick through the window. Windrider comforts Moon Shadow by telling him a dream he has, of saving a dragon’s life and being told he’ll come back as a dragon if he passes the tests he faces in life. Windrider shows his son the gadgets he builds and tells his son he wants to build an airplane. Uncle Bright Star thinks Windrider is crazy, but Moon Shadow is amazed. Moon Shadow helps his father at work and goes to school. He works on the car of a white man named Mr. Alger, and wins his respect.
However, trouble arrives in the form of Black Dog, Uncle Bright Star’s criminal son. Windrider and Moon Shadow rescue him from an opium den and protect him from the Justices, the cruel local watchmen. But Black Dog robs and beats Moon Shadow to steal the money he’s collected from customers. Windrider is enraged, and goes to fight Black Dog at the headquarters of the Sleepers, Black Dog’s gang. Moon Shadow follows. Windrider wins the fight, but one of the Sleepers is killed in self-defense. To avoid revenge by the dead man’s family, Windrider takes his son to go work for Mr. Alger. The Company wishes them well and gives them gifts as they go. They move into a stable behind a boarding house owned by Miss Whitlaw. Moon Shadow sees her as kind, even though she’s a demon. She has gadgets that he enjoys, and her niece Robin is a gifted piano player. Moon Shadow visits her daily and brings them Jasmine tea in his free time. He’s bullied by the local boys, but he and Robin become close and they share stories. Miss Whitlaw teaches Moon Shadow how to write better so that he can write a letter to the Wright Brothers, and he begins designing a model glider. Father and son, along with Miss Whitlaw and Robin, go to the sand dunes to fly his model. Robin helps Moon Shadow deal with neighborhood bully Jack by telling him to punch Jack in the nose. This earns Jack’s respect, and after the punch he leaves Moon Shadow alone. Father and son reunite with the Company at a festival in Chinatown. This is right before everything changes.
The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 devastates everything, and many people are lost, including Jack. The Whitlaws and Lees go to Golden Gate Park to search for survivors, and are reunited with the Company. They go to find Uncle back at the village and convince him to come somewhere safer. The Whitlaws and the Company meet and have dinner together. However, their newfound unity only lasts until soldiers come in and start rounding up the Chinese people, expelling them from the park and refusing to let them return home. Uncle is able to negotiate a deal with them, and the Tang community unites to rebuild their village. Windrider decides to pursue his dream of flying, and Moon Shadow goes with him. The two move into a barn in Oakland, and Moon Shadow works as a grocery delivery boy. He receives a letter from his mother and grandmother. His grandmother asks him to support his father, while his grandmother thinks Windrider is nuts.
Windrider eventually builds an airplane that they paint like a dragon. They name it Dragonwings, but before they can fly it, Black Dog hunts them down and robs them of their savings, threatening to kill Moon Shadow. However, the Company arrives and gives Windrider a loan. They help Windrider launch the plane, and he flies for a bit, but then the plane snaps and Windrider breaks his leg and ribs. Alive but injured, he realizes he’s achieved his dream and never wants to risk leaving his family again. He rejoins the laundromat as a partner, and earns enough money to bring Moon Shadow’s mother to America. Moon Shadow, now closer with Robin than ever, is amazed at his good luck. The book ends with an afterword on the story of Fung Joe Guey, whose life inspired the book.
Laurence Michael Yep is a prolific and critically acclaimed Chinese-American author, best known for his children’s books. His series include the Golden Mountain Chronicles, Dragon, Chinatown Mysteries, The Tiger’s Apprentice, Ribbons, the City Trilogy, and dozens of stand-alone picture books and young reader books, as well as five plays. He is also the author of two series in the American Girl franchise. In 2005, he was honored with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his career in children’s literature.
Moon Shadow Lee
At the beginning of Dragonwings, Moon Shadow is a wide-eyed boy who simply wants to meet and love...
Windrider, or Father as we first know him, is a complicated character. Moon Shadow loves his...
Uncle Bright Star
Uncle Bright Star seems so dark, so cryptically evil almost, yet he has a heart of gold. When we...
Before we meet Miss Whitlaw in Chapter 6, we as readers might anticipate that she is nasty both...
Robin, the first "demon" kid that Moon Shadow meets, turns out to be all right. OK, so she's...
One of the first things Black Dog does after we are introduced to him is throw a steel knife on...
Though it seems like our only encounter with Mother is in Chapter 1, her presence actually weaves...
We readers aren't allowed much access into the world of Grandmother; the little we do know is...
Hand Clap Lee
Hand Clap's name is pretty fun, both because he is a notorious exaggerator and because he is the...
Lefty is the poet and the reformed gambler of the Company. The figure of his missing right hand...
White Deer is a vegetarian and a devout Buddhist. Though he is an herbivore, however, White Deer...
We meet Mr. Alger early on in Moon Shadow's story, and the narrator soon tells us it is to be a...
Old Deerfoot is a crucial middle man in the Lees' story. Without Mr. Deerfoot, the Lees would not...
Previous NextSours: https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/dragonwings/characters
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