Cover image for My Chinatown : one year in poems
My Chinatown : one year in poems
Mak, Kam.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2002]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 22 x 29 cm
A boy adjusts to life away from his home in Hong Kong, the Chinatown of his new American city.
Reading Level:
NP Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.8 0.5 55713.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.7 2 Quiz: 32990 Guided reading level: P.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC.BK. Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books

On Order



My Chinatown is a critically acclaimed, spectacularly illustrated picture book homage to family, culture, and a childhood spent in one of the most striking places in any city--Chinatown.

Kam Mak grew up in a place of two cultures, one existing within the other. Using extraordinarily beautiful paintings and moving poems, he shares a year of growing up in this small city within a city.

My Chinatown explores a boy's first year in the United States--after emigrating from China--as he grows to love his new home in Chinatown through food, games, and the people surrounding him. Through Kam Mak's spare verse and richly detailed artwork, the streets of Chinatown come vividly alive. Included in's 2017 list of recommended diverse poetry picture books for kids.

Chinatown--a place of dragons and dreams; fireflies and memories

Chinatown--full of wonder and magic; fireworks on New Year's Day and a delicious smell on every corner

Chinatown--where every day brings something familiar and something wondrously new to a small boy


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 2-6, younger for reading aloud. Extraordinary photo-realistic paintings and spare, free-verse poems bring New York's Chinatown to life in this picture book with appeal to a wide age group. Organized chronologically through the seasons, the poems follow a young boy from Hong Kong through his first year in the U.S. Written in the boy's voice, the words capture the fear and discomfort of adjusting to newness: "The English words taste like metal in my mouth." But as the year progresses, the boy feels the irresistible vitality of his new community, helped along by signs of the familiar; and at year's end, he exuberantly celebrates the dragon parade and his new home: "Drums beat / feet stamp / hands clap / voices shout / Chinatown, / this is Chinatown!" The words and pictures work beautifully together; both glow with a quiet intensity that complements rather than overpowers the other. Whether or not they've known displacement, readers will come away with a deeper interest in Chinatown's culture and in immigration stories in general. Suggest this to teachers doing units on home and place. --Gillian Engberg

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-Children whose ideas about life in New York's Chinatown come solely from books about holiday celebrations will get a deeper glimpse from this former resident's solo debut. In four ruminative, simply phrased free-verse poems, one for each season, Mak looks back to childhood: to feeling homesick for Hong Kong, or excited by the annual Dragon Boat races; happily spoiling his appetite for dinner with fish balls purchased from a cart; and drifting off to sleep next to his mother as she does piecework on her sewing machine. There are no colorful urban street scenes or (with the exception of the Dragon Boat race) panoramic views in Mak's sober, extraordinary paintings. Instead, he focuses on individual figures-a curbside fortune-teller, a cobbler, a wide-eyed child drinking in a shop-rendered with photographic realism and placed against plain, undecorated backgrounds. The mood is generally wistful, though brightened at the end by a New Year's lion float prancing into view. The distinctly personal voice and sensibility makes this a natural companion for the more community-conscious tour in William Low's Chinatown (Holt, 1997).-John Peters, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.