May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks on the project were Chinese immigrants.
But another fact of Chinese immigration is that many of these brave souls ended up in California where they struggled to make a living as fishermen. That nearly forgotten era is preserved at historical sites in the San Fransisco Bay Area like China Camp: a state park that is committed to preserving the Chinese shrimp-fishing village that was created around the time of California’s Gold Rush.
Inspired by the 1863 Egg War and the mad rush for murre eggs on the Farallon Islands near San Francisco, Yao Bai, and the Egg Pirates is a high-seas adventure story celebrating the courage and history of Chinese immigrants in America through a fascinating yet little-known event during the California Gold Rush era.
Yao Bai is finally old enough to sail with his father and uncle to the Farallon Islands, to gather the precious eggs that seabirds had laid there. But on their way home, they encounter trouble on the sea―pirates! Just when Yao’s father and uncle believe their hard day’s work would all be gone, Yao comes up with a clever plan. But will it be enough to save all the eggs?
The Inspiration for Yao Bai and the Egg Pirates
“While on a sightseeing trip to see humpback whales, our tour guide told us about the ‘Egg War’ at an island off the California coast during the Gold Rush,” Myers recalled. “So many miners came to California to find gold that it became difficult to feed them all. People began gathering seabird eggs on the Farallon Islands near San Francisco, especially murre eggs, which were three times the size of chicken eggs. In my story, I imagine that members of a Chinese fishing family have sailed out to the islands for eggs but then encounter egg pirates, which history tells us really existed. The pirates knew how much the eggs were worth, and weren’t afraid to use violence to get them.”
Intrigued by this real-life occurrence, Myers began to dig deeper into this event and the idea for a historical fiction children’s book began to unfold in his mind.
“Shortly after our whale-watching trip, we visited China Camp and learned more about the Chinese in Gold Rush California,” Myers added. “The sun was still rising in the east as I stood looking out across China Camp—and suddenly I could almost imagine a young Chinese boy scampering across the sand. At that moment, the character of Yao Bai was born. I also recently saw a period photo which included a real Chinese boy at a rough-looking Monterey fishing camp and thought, There he is! I knew his life was important, both in itself and to America as a whole—so I knew I had to try to drag that forgotten story out into the light. Chinese Americans have made incredible contributions to American life, and too often that’s forgotten or dismissed.”
With illustrations by Chinese artist Bonnie Pang, this delightful diverse historical fiction picture book will help young readers understand more about the great courage and adaptability of the Chinese in America. Connie Yu, the official historian of the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project of Santa Clara, praised Yao Bai and the Egg Pirates. for its research and accuracy.
About The Author
Tim Myers is a writer, songwriter, storyteller, and university senior lecturer in English. When not writing adult non-fiction and children’s fiction, he can be found working in the English Department at Santa Clara University. To date, Myers has published a whopping 22 books–15 of which are children’s books. Some of his diverse children’s book titles include Let’s Call Him Lau-Wiliwili-Humuhumu-Nukunuku-Nukunuku-Apua’A-Oi’Oi, The Thunder Egg, The Outfoxed Fox: Based on a Japanese Kyogen, and Basho and the River Stones.
Tim won the 2012 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for Fiction and, as a fantasy/science fiction writer, he won a prize in the Writers of the Future Contest, and his work has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, Worlds of Fantasy and Horror, Space & Time, Weird Tales, Abyss & Apex, Futures Mysterious, on the Astropoetica website, and elsewhere.
When asked what advice he would give to young writers, Myers had this to say:
Read, Read, Read
Write, Write, Write
Live, Live, Live
“Those three words are the best way I know for authors to ‘get there.’ And the repetition is just as important as the categories,” Myers shared. “It’s a privilege to be an artist and to be part of the publishing world. I get a waterfall of joy in my brain every time I think about how lucky I am to be able to create art. And being able to merge that passion with my love for kids and teaching amplifies that joy even more. Writing Yao Bai and the Egg Pirates was, to me, a perfect opportunity to retell a moment in our past that’s in danger of being lost—a way to turn forgotten history into something fun and educational, in order to keep that human reality alive. ”
Connect with Tim J. Myers via his website, Amazon Author Page, and Facebook. For more information on Yao Bai: http://www.timmyersstorysong.
Myers also has excellent teacher’s resources for Yao Bai here.