Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan is one of the most romantic, yet kid-friendly books I’ve read. Set during Communist China’s one-child policy, Chu Ju’s mother has given birth to another girl child.
Although only one-birth-per-family was the mandate, China allowed rural families two children if the first was a girl. Chu Ju is feeling guilty for being a girl and unloved by her grandmother and parents. Not wanting her mother to give away Hua, the newborn baby girl, 14-year-old Chu Ju runs away. Now the family can once again try for the boy child that tradition highly prizes.
As Chu Ju learns to survive on her own, we follow her throughout the countryside and numerous occupations. From living aboard a fishing boat, to working in a silkworm farm, we are introduced to how other families and runaways eek-out a living. This story is so descriptive, you can easily imagine the countryside and people.
Regardless of her situation, Chu Ju is determined to earn enough money to send back home for Hua’s education. Chu Ju knows that if she had an education, she would have many more possibilities available to her now.
Chu Ju eventually meets a woman named Han Na and her son, Quan. We see a struggle between generations and once again tradition. After working in Han Na’s rice paddies for several years, we see Chu Ju start to establish her independence and start living life on her own terms. A budding romance also adds to the journey to keep the reader (& Chu Ju) engaged in the everyday trials of life.
This is an incredible example of perseverance during trials, striving for a better life, and not caring what others think. Gloria Whelan is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I would recommend this book for ages 9-years-old and up.
- Related: MOH4 – Mystery of History IV