Paul Yee’s historical novel, published in 2005, is a good read for junior high and above, as well as for adults. Have you ever heard of Vancouver’s Chinatown riots of September 7, 1907? Neither have I. This attempt to purge Canada of Asian immigrants, a parade right through the middle of Chinatown, by the “Asiatic Exclusion League” turned a bad idea into a war between the Asians and equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan.
The story is told from the point of view of young Ba, son of Bing, the “bone collector,”who makes his living returning the bones of people who died in America back to China to be buried “properly.” It is a job nobody else will do because of superstition and not wanting to do such a lowly job. When Bing digs up the bones of Mr. Shum, whose skull is missing, strange things begin to happen. Although he grew up on ghost stories, Ba tries to heed his father’s advice that there are no such things as ghosts. When Ba “graduates” to houseboy in the Bently home, he finds he must face many things with courage, and eventually is able to help Mrs. Bently “restore” the mansion to its former state and condition. What was a haunted house becomes a happy home.
The characters are fictional, the plot is imaginative, but the facts on which it is based are real. This is a fascinating “peek” into Canada’s history and an easy way to learn and enjoy it.