Cover image for Chu Ju's house
Chu Ju's house
Whelan, Gloria.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2004]

Physical Description:
227 pages ; 19 cm
In order to save her baby sister, fourteen-year-old Chu Ju leaves her rural home in modern China and earns food and shelter by working on a sampan, tending silk worms, and planting rice seedlings, while wondering if she will ever see her family again.
Reading Level:
5 up.

870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.2 6.0 78021.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.2 10 Quiz: 36424 Guided reading level: T.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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In order to save her baby sister, fourteen-year-old Chu Ju leaves her rural home in modern China and earns food and shelter by working on a sampan, tending silk worms, and planting rice seedlings, while wondering if she will ever see her family again.

Author Notes

Gloria Whelan was born on November 23, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. She took a strong interest in reading early in life when she was bedridden for a year with rheumatic fever. She dictated stories to her sister who would then type them. She then went on to writing poetry and later editing her high school newspaper. She attended the University of Michigan and earned her and M.S.W. degree. She began working as a social worker in Minneapolis and Detroit. She soon became tired of Detroit's hectic pace and moved to a cabin in northern Michigan.This peace was disrupted by an oil company 's desire to drill on her property. Because she did not own the mineral rights, the drilling proceeded. This experience inspired Gloria Whelan to write her children's novel, A Clearing in the Forest in 1978, which was about a boy working on an oilrig. Gloria Whelan has written several works of fiction for children and adults, many set in rural Michigan. She has also written stories set in exotic places like China and India. She won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 2000 for Homeless Bird - the story of a young woman in India abandoned by her mother-in-law.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6-9. When Chuu is 14 years old, her mother gives birth to a second daughter. Rural China policy restricts families to two children, and when Chuu's bitter grandmother convinces the parents to put the new baby up for adoption, leaving space in the family for a possible boy to care for us in our old age, Chuu runs away. She wanders, finding sporadic work and shelter, until she comes upon a loving home with an aging farmer and becomes a skilled farmer herself. As in Homeless Bird (2000) and Angel on the Square (2001), Whelan tells a compelling adventure story, filled with rich cultural detail, about a smart, likable teenage girl who overcomes society's gender restrictions. Whelan skillfully weaves in just enough cultural context to support the story, while her atmospheric details bring the green Chinese landscape to life. Most compelling, though, is brave, clearly drawn Chuu, whose intelligence and good heart win her land, family respect, and the promise of romance by the story's end. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A 14-year-old girl experiences hardships while growing up in China during the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. "Facing one test of courage after another, Chu Ju emerges as a heroine worthy of the rare and coveted rewards she ultimately receives," said PW's starred review. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-In present-day rural China, 14-year-old Chu Ju's mother gives birth to her second child, another girl. When her grandmother makes plans to sell the baby, Chu Ju decides to leave home. Perhaps then her family will keep little Hua and her parents will try again for a boy. After finding work on a sampan and becoming like a daughter to the fisherman's wife, she tells her story, and the woman is so horrified that she wants her to return home immediately. Forced to move on once more, the teen ends up in the household of Han Na, whose son wants to leave the rice paddies and go to Shanghai. Here Chu Ju proves her worth, making the paddy more productive using modern techniques she learns from her neighbor and friend Ling, caring for Han Na as she becomes increasingly weak, and rescuing her unfortunate son from jail in the city. Finally, having achieved a sense of self-worth, she goes back to see her family, but only to visit as she has made a life on the land bequeathed to her by Han Na. Whelan skillfully shows the mixture of past and present that is characteristic of rural China. She conveys the feelings of a nation on the brink of change, a country whose young people are trying out new ways of doing things, yet are clear about what traditional values are important to retain.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chu Ju's House Chapter One It was the fifth day of the fourth moon, Tomb Sweeping Day, which some call the Day of Pure Brightness. It was just such a day, for the spring sky was bright blue and the fields of ripened winter wheat shone gold in the sun. All across the hills you could see villagers like ourselves making their way to their ancestors' graves. I ran ahead on the goat path, happy to leave the village where it was all houses and people. The sweet smell of wild roses followed us up and down the hills. I loved the upness and downness of the hills. On this day I thought hills were the best idea of all. "Chu Ju," my grandmother called, "you are like a wild dog let loose. Have a little dignity." Nothing I did pleased my nai nai. I slowed my steps, as was proper for so solemn an occasion. We would ask of our ancestors the thing we had asked in the village of the palm reader and of the astrologer. It was the thing that was talked of in our home day and night, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in angry shouts. Often Nai Nai would look sharply at me as if it were all my fault, and often I felt it was. We passed a small house where azalea bushes grew beside a pigpen. I took Ma Ma's hand and pointed out the pink piglets rooting among the pink blossoms. Ma Ma stood beside me smiling. The baby was due any time, and I guessed she was happy to rest for a moment. Ba Ba paused to admire some rows of new corn. My father was a doctor, but his parents had been farmers and he had been a farmer until the government had taken their land and joined it with other farms to make a big farm. When his parents protested, they were punished and sent away to this place where we now live. Ba Ba had only been a small child then, but he remembered the farm and took great pleasure in anything that grew. That is a thing I have from Ba Ba. "It is a good year for the corn," he said. He grinned at me. "Your little pigs will grow fat." Below us the houses became small. The river, the Gan Jiang, curled around the village like a silver ribbon. Overhead soared a great ying, with its dark wings and white breast. At last we came to the place where our ancestors were buried. The graveyard was small, with only three tombs. Ba Ba had planted a pear tree beside each tomb. The white pear blossoms drifted down like snowflakes, covering the graves. A little bird with an orange head peered at us from the top of one of the trees. Its song was like the gu zheng, the lyre, with its sweet sound. During the years of war and revolution the people of China had been blown about like autumn leaves, settling now here, now there. With many tears they had left the graves of their ancestors. Few people could afford a trip of a thousand kilometers to return to those tombs. Nai Nai said it was the disgrace of all those untended graves that caused our country so much sorrow. I had come to this resting place of our ancestors many times and knew the names on the stones by heart. I had seen the places set aside for my nai nai and my ma ma and ba ba and for a son if there should be one. I was saddened that there was no place for me. One day I would marry, and when I died I would lie with my husband in some distant place. I was seven when Ye Ye died. I came with Ba Ba to find a suitable location for my grandfather's grave. Ba Ba brought with him his bamboo divination blocks, which would help him discover the most auspicious place, the place with the best feng shui. If your ancestors were displeased with their burial place, they could be mischievous and cause you trouble. Nai Nai had been unhappy with the site Ba Ba had chosen for her husband, but then Nai Nai was unhappy about everything. Unlike Nai Nai, who could only see that I was not a son, Ye Ye had been kind to me and would pick the bits of meat from his rice and put them in my dish. When Ye Ye became sick, my ba ba prescribed a certain kind of snake for him and Ye Ye gave me bits of that cooked snake. For days I thought I felt it slithering about in my stomach. As a special treat Ye Ye would take me with him to fish in the river. First we would catch grasshoppers for bait. Once I caught a cricket, but Ye Ye shook his head. "Not a cricket," he said. "At night the crickets sing away the darkness." He wove a small bamboo cage for the cricket and put it beside my bed. "Now you will have only pleasant dreams," he promised. We sat by the river, Ye Ye with his long bamboo pole and I with my small one. Together we would watch the barges make their way down the river. "There is no end to where the river can take you and no end to the wonders it can show you," Ye Ye said. "The river is not like a road that comes to an end. It goes to the great river, the Chang Jiang, and from there to the sea, the hai, and from there to another hai." Ye Ye became silent, and I saw that he was on the river and floating toward the hai and from one hai to the next and from one wonder to an even greater wonder. Once we saw a dead man strapped onto a raft floating down the river. I cried out, but Ye Ye said, "It is nothing more than a death custom that some practice. It is not for me, for I must be buried in the place my son will choose, but I would not think it a bad thing to travel forever on the river." Chu Ju's House . Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Chu Jus House by Gloria Whelan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.