You are in site section: Engage & learn

Seams of Gold, by Christopher Cheng

Synopsis

It is the 1850s and 12-year-old Danny has been sent to stay with his uncle while his parents visit relatives in China. While always respectful, Danny is unsure about his uncle who 'does women's work' by sewing for a living. Danny is not pleased when he is told he must accompany his uncle on a trip to the goldfields.

Uncle puts Danny to work lifting loads, setting up camp and keeping records of all the jobs. As the day progresses they move from the main camp on to the Chinese camp and the work, combined with Uncle's gentle jibes, soon has Danny in a very dark mood.

When a storm hits the camp the trip is prolonged to allow them to repair the damaged tents. Not only is Danny put to work sewing, but he has to endure an extra night on the fields listening to the shrill Cantonese opera that is performed in the evening.

Much to Danny's surprise, however, he realises that he has a talent for sewing. He is soon seeing sewing and his Uncle through different eyes. When they return to the town, Danny presents Uncle with a surprise that he has sewn and Uncle gives Danny a family treasure — a beautiful Chinese sewing basket.

Discussion questions

  • Why doesn't Danny want to travel to the goldfields with his uncle?
  • Why do you think the Chinese goldminers were separated from the main camp? How do you think Danny might have felt about this?
  • What challenges might Danny have faced as the son of a Chinese father and English mother?
  • Why do you think Danny dislikes Cantonese opera singing?
  • What does Danny think of Uncle? What does Uncle think of Danny? How and why does their relationship change throughout the story?
  • In the first chapter of the story Danny thinks that sewing is women's work. How and why does Danny's attitude change?
  • How do you think Danny felt about receiving the sewing basket as a gift from Uncle? What do you think he might have done with it?

Classroom activities

  1. Involve students in a sewing activity. Students could each create a small sampler using brightly coloured embroidery thread.
  2. Ask students to write an extra final chapter for Seams of Gold. The chapter should begin when Danny is home again and reunited with his parents.
  3. Use the Relative relations worksheet (PDF 319kb) to explore Danny and Uncle's evolving relationship. Students are asked to describe how the two characters feel about each other at different stages in the story.
  4. Ask students to create a diorama that depicts a scene from the book.
  5. In the final chapter Danny receives a gift from his uncle. Ask students to identify an object that has special significance to them or their family. Students should bring the objects to school and talk to the class about their object.
  6. Use the Gold rush research worksheet (PDF 233kb) to explore the Australian gold rush era more fully. Students should work in groups of six and each student should research and report on one aspect of the jigsaw. The research should then be combined in one visual display.

Purchase the book

Seams of Gold
by Christopher Cheng
illustrated by Donna Rawlins

ISBN 978 1876944 52 0
198mm x 130mm, 64pp
black and white illustrations

This book is no longer readily available.

Related links

Find out more about Chris Cheng.