Walk Across the Sea


Susan Fletcher

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Eliza's father has always told her to avoid the Chinese immigrants that live in their town. "If you see one coming toward you," Papa says, "step away and don't look at him. If you meet their eyes, they might try to converse with you. Best have nothing to do with them." Papa says the Chinese don't believe in the same God and that they are taking jobs away from Christians. "All good comes from God," says Papa, "and where there is no good, there is evil."

But one day, Eliza sees a Chinaman do something good. On the way to lighthouse where her family lives, she sees him. Eliza has to cross over a pathway at low tide to get to the lighthouse-she thinks maybe she should wait until the Chinaman goes away, but she knows if she waits too long, the tide will come in, and she won't be able to reach the lighthouse.

So Eliza Jane and her goat, Parthenia, go past the Chinaman and start on the pathway to the lighthouse.

Read page 6: "Come along, Parthenia," to page 8 "But it was folly to do so for long."

Eliza realizes that the Chinaman not only warned her about the wave, he also rescued Parthenia. Is her father wrong about the Chinamen?

However, more people get angry when they lose their jobs and are replaced by Chinamen. There is talk of running the Chinamen out of town. If they do, Eliza wonders, what will happen to the one who helped save her life?

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. What are some of the major themes of this book?
  2. This is a work of historical fiction. Was it believable? Do you think the author did her homework?
  3. Did Eliza do the right thing in helping Wah Chung even though she was defying her father?
  4. What do you think the author was trying to accomplish with this novel?Did you identify with any of the characters? In what way?
  5. Consider the main character: what does he or she believe in? What is he or she willing to fight for?
  6. What are the most important relationships in the book?
  7. What are the most memorable scenes for you? Why?
  8. Are any of the events in the book relevant to your own life?
  9. How did you feel when the Chinese immigrants were being driven out of the town?
  10. In your daily life, do you see people who are shunned like the Chinese immigrants in the story?
  11. At the end of the book, do you feel hope for the characters?

If you liked this book try

  • The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman
  • A Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead
  • In the Shade of the Nispero Tree by Carmen Bernier-Grand
  • When the Circus Came to Town by Laurence Yep
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare
  • Witness by Karen Hesse

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.