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Paul Yee

Paul Yee (2) (250x248)

Paul Yee is best known as a writer for children and young adults, but he has also written short stories and non-fiction for an adult audience. A native of Spalding, Saskatchewan, Yee grew up in Vancouver’s Chinatown. He received a bachelor’s degree and an M.A. in Canadian history from the University of British Columbia. His thesis is entitled: Chinese business in Vancouver, 1886-1914. He worked as an archivist with the City of Vancouver and then the Archives of Ontario before moving into the area of immigration policy with the government of Ontario. Toronto has been his home since 1988.  In 2012, Yee was the recipient of the Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature that recognizes a body of work. Yee’s first full length novel for adult readers, A Superior Man, was published in the late summer of 2015.

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)


Illustrated by Shaoli Wang.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2005.
PZ7 .Y365 B25 2006

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

In a Chinese village, Bamboo, a simple farmer, falls in love with a peasant girl, Ming, and soon they are married. To celebrate the wedding, the newlyweds plant a grove of bamboo.
When Bamboo goes to the New World to seek his fortune, his sister-in-law, Jin, makes life a misery for Ming, taking the best part of the fields, the water buffalo and most of the tools for her own family. How is Ming able to till the land and make the fields flourish all on her own? And will Bamboo ever return safely from across the ocean?

Awards and Honours

2006 Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize (BC Books Prizes) (Nominated)

Fiction (Juvenile, Chapter book)

Blood and Iron: Building Canada

Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
Series: I Am Canada

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Heen’s father and grandfather have brought their family in China to the brink of ruin with their gambling habits. To solve their money troubles, Heen and his father come to Canada to build the railway — a decision plagued by disaster.

The living conditions provided for workers are wretched and work on the railway is excruciating. Transporting tons of gravel and working in tunnels about to be dynamited proves to be deadly for many of his co-workers. Soon the friction between the Chinese workers and the whites, who barely acknowledge these deaths, reaches a fevered pitch. As an added stress, Heen’s father has found some men to gamble with, which puts all of their earnings at risk.

Heen’s only solace is his journal, where his chilling observations of the injustice and peril heaped upon the workers serve as an important testament to this dramatic era in Canadian history. Some 17,000 Chinese workers came to B.C. during the early 1880s; though not all stayed for the railway’s entire construction, they formed three-quarters of the workforce

Fiction (Juvenile, Novel)

The Bone Collector’s Son

Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2003.
PS8597 .E3 B66 2004

Publisher’s Synopsis

In Vancouver of 1907, thirteen-year-old Bing-wing Chan must conquer his fear of ghosts as his father’s gambling debts force him to dig for human bones in a graveyard and then to work as a houseboy in a haunted house.

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

The Boy in the Attic

Pictures by Gu Xiong.
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1998.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Seven-year-old Kai-ming Wong and his family have just moved from their village in China to a big city in North America. Everything is new and different, and Kai-ming is lonely. … But one day Kai-ming meets a mysterious boy his age living in the attic of his house…
This evocative ghost story … reminds us that change requires courage, and that friendship has great power to heal.

Awards and Honours

1999 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Prize (Nominated)

Fiction (Juvenile, Novel)


Toronto: Douglas and McIntyre, 1994.
Toronto: Greenwood Books, 1997 (cloth).

Publisher’s Synopsis

Kwok-ken Wong is a good student and a great soccer player. So even though he comes from a poor farming family that has to struggle to make ends meet, his future should be bright.

But in Depression-ridden Vancouver in the 1930s, racism has a strong grip. Can a young Chinese man, no matter how gifted, make a good life for himself?

Awards and Honours

YALSA Best Book for Young Adults

Fiction (Juvenile)

Chinese Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook

Tales by Paul Yee.
Illustrations by Shaoli Wang.
Recipes by Judy Chan.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2014.
GR335 .Y44 2014

Publisher’s Synopsis

Fiction (Juvenile, Novel)

The Curses of Third Uncle

[Illustrations by Don Besco]
Toronto: Lorimer, 1986.

Publisher’s Synopsis

It is 1909, and Lillian Ho’s father has mysteriously disappeared. With no money coming in, Lillian’s scheming Third Uncle has announced he will sell the family business, and Lillian, her mother and sisters will all have to return to China.

Lillian wants to stay in Canada, where she was born. She must find her father. But how? … When Lillian finds a hidden letter, she fears her father may be in danger.

Awards and Honours

1987 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Book Prize (Nominated)

Fiction (Juvenile, Short stories)

Dead Man’s Gold and Other Stories

Illustrated by Harvey Chan.
Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2002.
PS8597 .E3 D42 2002

Publisher’s Synopsis

These ten original ghost stories dramatize the history of Chinese immigration to North America — from the poor village men who first came searching for gold in the late 1850s to the new immigrants who arrived from Hong Kong in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. These stories describe the resilience and struggle of people trying to make new lives for themselves in a strange land. But these are also ghost stories, a popular narrative form in China.

The tales describe the plights and dreams of men and women, rich and poor, greedy and good, young and old. Together, they tell the tumultuous story of 140 years of Chinese immigration to North America, creating a New World mythology of immigrant stories.

Awards and Honours

2002 Book of the Year for Children Award (Canadian Library Association)(Nominated)
2002 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize Notable Book – Fiction
2003 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic (Nominated)
2004 Golden Oak Award–Forest of Reading, Ontario Library Association (Nominated)

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

Ghost Train

Pictures by Harvey Chan.
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1996.
PZ7 .Y365 G56 1996

Publisher’s Synopsis

Left behind in China by her father, who has gone to North America to find work, Choon-yi has made her living by selling her paintings in the market. When her father writes one day and asks her to join him, she joyously sets off, only to discover that he has been killed.

Choon-yi sees the railway and the giant train engines that her father died for, and she is filled with an urge to paint them. But her work disappoints her until a ghostly presence beckons her to board a train and go on a fantastical journey.

Awards and Honours

1996 Governor General’s Literary Award, Children’s Literature (Text)–English (Winner)
1997 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award (Canadian Library Association)(Winner)
1997 Toronto IODE Book Award (Shortlisted)
1997 Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Award-Picture Book (Winner)
1998 Prix Enfantasie (Swiztzerland)(Winner; for French language version: Le train fantôme)
1999-2000 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award — English fiction (Shortlist)

Other Information

Ghost Train was adapted for the stage by Betty Quan. The play opened at the Young Peoples Theatre in Toronto, now called the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, and ran from April 18-May 17, 2001.

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

The Jade Necklace

Illustrated by Grace Lin.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2002.

Publisher’s Synopsis

The story begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in South China where Yenyee and her family live. One night, her fisherman father vanishes in a ferocious storm at sea. But it is not only her father that she suddenly loses that day. Yenyee also feels betrayed by the ocean, a friend she has trusted all her life, and betrayed by her family who then send her across the Pacific to the New World to be a servant.

Fiction (Juvenile)

Learning to Fly

Vancouver: Orca Book Publishers, 2008.

Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)

Jason is an outsider. A recent immigrant from China, he lives in a close-minded town with his mother and younger brother. Falling in with the wrong crowd, trying to fit in, Jason takes chances and ends up in trouble with the police. Holding on to his friendship with a Native boy, also an outsider, Jason finds he needs to fight to belong and to find a new home.

Fiction (Juvenile, Young adult)

Money Boy

Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2011.
PS8597 .E3 M65 2011

Publisher’s Synopsis

It’s bad enough fitting in as a young Chinese immigrant in a new country. But what happens when your father finds out you’re gay and kicks you out of the house?
How tough can life be on the street?
Ray Liu is about to find out…

Awards and Honours

2011 OLA Best Bets for Children and Young Adults –Young Adult category (Honourable mention)
2012 Stonewall Book Awards (Honor)

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

Roses Sing on New Snow: A Delicious Tale

Pictures by Harvey Chan.
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1991.
Toronto: Groundwood Books, 1994 (Meadow mouse pbk.)
PZ7 .Y365 R67 1994

Awards and Honours

1992 Ruth Schwartz Award (Ontario Arts Council)(Winner)

Fiction (Juvenile)

The Secret Keepers

Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2011.
PS8597 .E3 S43 2012

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

In this novel set in San Francisco’s Chinatown before and after 1906, young Jackson Leong has to not only cope with the ghost of his brother who died in the earthquake, but also the mysterious ghost of a young woman who is haunting the family nickelodeon. A masterpiece of historical fiction that will take the reader on a roller coaster journey into the past.

Fiction (Juvenile, Chapter book)

Shu-Li and Diego

Pictures by Shaoli Wang.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2009.
PZ7 .Y365 S59 2009

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

In this sequel to the popular Shu-Li and Tamara, Paul Yee recounts the adventures of Shu-Li and her classmate Diego as they face the challenge of taking care of Baxter, a neighbour’s dog. The two friends face disaster when Baxter runs away and they have to break the news to its owner.

Fiction (Juvenile, Chapter book)

Shu-Li and Tamara

Pictures by Shaoli Wang.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2007.
PZ7 .Y365 S593 2007

Publisher’s Synopsis

Shu-Li’s family moved to Canada from China two years ago. They now run a Chinese deli in Vancouver’s Commercial Drive area. Her classmate, Tamara, recently moved into the neighbourhood. The two girls become good friends, but an ugly rumour threatens their relationship.

Fiction (Juvenile, Chapter book)

Shu-Li and the Magic Pear Tree

Pictures by Shaoli Wang.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2017.

Publisher’s Synopsis

In this new addition to the popular Shu-Li chapter book series, celebrated author Paul Yee brings to young readers more adventures of Vancouver kids of diverse backgrounds living in the vibrant multicultural Commercial Drive neighbourhood.  When Shu-Li and her friends’ school is threatened with closure, they find unexpected help from a magic pear tree in the backyard of an elderly and intriguing neighbour..

Fiction (Juvenile, Picture book)

A Song for Ba

Pictures by Jan Peng Wang.
Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Wei Lim’s father, Ba, is a singer in the Chinese opera. … As shrinking audiences put the opera company in financial danger, Ba finds himself forced to take on female parts. He has trouble accepting that he can no longer play a great man. But he has even more difficulty learning to sing in the high voice required. … Finally, Wei comes to the rescue.

A Superior Man book cover

Fiction (Adult)

A Superior Man

Vancouver: Arsenal  Pulp Press, 2015.
PS8597 .E3 S86 2015

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

After the CPR is built in 1885, Yang Hok, a former coolie, treks along the railway to return his half-Chinese/half-Native son to the boy’s mother and finds himself immersed in the conflicts arising from road-building among the Chinese and Native peoples. Hok’s guide on the often perilous trip, Sam Bing Lew, also of mixed Chinese-Native blood, urges Hok to take his son to China, while Hok has dreams of finding fortune in America. The two men agree on little, as many issues fester between Chinese and Natives at a time when both races were disdained as inferior by whites (“redbeards”).

This far-reaching novel crackles with the brutal, visceral energy of the time―a period marked by contraband, illegal gambling, disfigurement, and death. It also depicts the bawdy world of Chinese “bachelors,” whose families remained in China while they worked in Canada, and who enjoyed more freedom to live their lives without restraint. Yang Hok is not an easy man to like; but through the blood and sweat of his experience, he aspires to become the “superior man” he knows he should be.

Fiction (Juvenile, Short stories)

Tales From Gold Mountain: Stories of the Chinese in the New World

Paintings by Simon Ng.
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1989.
PZ7 .Y365 T3 1989

Awards and Honours

1990 Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Prize (Winner)
1990 IODE Violet Downey Book Award (Winner)
1990 Notable Children’s Book–Social Studies (American Library Association)
1990 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People–Canadian Children’s Book Centre (Nominated)
1990 Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book – Fiction
1990 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award (Finalist)
1990 Max and Greta Ebel Memorial Award (Finalist)
1990 Parent’s Choice Honor Book for Story Books

Fiction (Juvenile, Short stories)

Teach Me to Fly Skyfighter!: And Other Stories

Illustrated by Sky Lee.
Toronto: Lorimer, 1983.

Publisher’s Synopsis

With Samson’s butterfly kite flat on the ground and her own kite soaring, Sharon thought of shouting, “Okay, Samson Wong, you big-mouth. Let’s see you fly your wonderful kite. Big wings will do it every time, right?”

But now that she had her chance to get even with Samson, Sharon didn’t feel like fighting. … For the first time in her life, Sharon had something Chinese that she was proud of and she was enjoying herself!

Four stories about Sharon and her friends Samson, John and Christine, kids who live in the same neighbourhood and have interesting stories to tell.

Awards and Honours

1983 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Our Choice Selection

Fiction (Juvenile, Short stories)

What Happened This Summer and Other Stories

Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2006.
PS8597 .E3 W48 2006

Publisher’s Synopsis (from Hushion House spring 2006 catalogue)

This new collection of short stories by Governor General’s Award winning author Paul Yee confronts the secret lives [of] Chinese-Canadian teenagers as they battle with their parents over schooling, careers, sexuality, religion and integration into North American culture. Once again Paul Yee offers a rare glimpse into the conflicted world of Chinese youth, some of whom are locally born while others have recently immigrated from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.



Henry Chow and Other Stories

Edited by R. David Stephens, from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop.
Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2009.
PS8329.1 .H44 2009

Yee, Paul. “The Dark Room.” In Henry Chow and Other Stories, edited by R. David Stephens, from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop. Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2009, 63-69.



Many-Mouthed Birds: Contemporary Writing by Chinese Canadians

PS8235 .C5 M35 1991

Yee, Paul. “Prairie Night 1939.” In Many-Mouthed Birds, edited by Bennett Lee & Jim Wong-Chu. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1991, 48-55. Short story first published in West Coast Review (Summer 1981).

Yee, Paul. “Last Words II.” In Many-Mouthed Birds, edited by Bennett Lee & Jim Wong-Chu. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1991, 180. Poem first published in Inalienable Rice: A Chinese and Japanese Canadian Anthology. Vancouver: Powell Street Review, 1979.


Chinatown: An Illustrated History of the Chinese Communities of Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax

Toronto: Lorimer, 2005.
FC106 .C5 Y428 2005



Saltwater City: An Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver

Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1988
FC3847.9 .C45 Y43 1988

Rev. ed.
Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2006
FC3847.9 .C45 Y43 2006

Awards and Honours

1989 Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize (Nominated)
2006 Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada–Prose Non-fiction Illustrated category (Winner: designers: Peter Cocking and Naomi Macdougall)

Non-Fiction (Juvenile)

Struggle and Hope: The Story of Chinese Canadians

Toronto: Umbrella Press, 1996.
PZ9 Y43 1996

Non-Fiction (Autobiography)

Becoming a Writer

Toronto: Toronto Public Library, 2007.
PS8597.E3 Z53 2007

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Chao, Lien. “Mythologizing the Collective History and Reclaiming “Chinamen”: Tales from Gold Mountain.” Chap. in her Beyond Silence: Chinese Canadian Literature in English. Toronto: TSAR, 1997, 51-65.
PS8089.5 .C47 C52 1997

Grattan, Tricia Charlotte.  “Fantastical Disruptions: Represention and Ideology in Historical Fiction for Children.”  M.A. diss., University of Calgary, 2007.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Jones, Raymond E., and Jon C. Stott. Canadian Children’s Books: A Critical Guide to Authors and Illustrators. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press, 2000.
PS8081 .S86 2000

Li, Yan Ling. “Chinese family values in a selection of Chinese-American and Chinese-Canadian children’s novels on the immigrant experience.” M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 2013. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from

Lim, Huai-Yang. “Representations of Class Identity in Chinese Canadian Literature.” Ph.D. diss., University of Alberta, 2005.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

McKellar, Kyla. “Little House on Gold Mountain: A Micro-analysis of Racialization and Colonialism in Children’s Historical Fiction.” M.A. diss., University of Ottawa, 2002.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Yamakami, Brenda Karen Akimi. “Interpretations of history and culture in Japanese- and Chinese-Canadian picturebooks : a new historical approach.”  M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 2010. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from


Paul Yee Home Page

Publisher Arsenal Pulp Press

Publisher Douglas & McIntyre

Publisher Groundwood Books an imprint of Douglas & McIntyre

Publisher James Lorimer & Co.

Orca Book Publishers

Publisher Scholastic Canada

Publisher Tradewind Books

Paul Yee on Blood and Iron, part of CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers,  episode “Paul Yee” first broadcast May 16, 2011

Paul Yee Fonds at the City of Vancouver Archives

AuthentiCity Blog on the Paul Yee Fonds