rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
A pleasant, rambling, and delightful little book based on Chinese folktales. The author's description of its genesis in the afternote begins: "By the age of eleven, I had fully disregarded my Asian heritage. My wise mother, knowing that any kind of forced cultural exposure would lead to scorn, silently left half a dozen Chinese folktale and fairy-tale books on the bookshelf. Unable to resist the pull of a new book, I very quietly began to read them."

This is a book steeped in its author's obvious happiness in her work, in her material, and in the way she gets to pull stories that she loves into a single thread.

I'd heard some of the stories-- the one about the painting of a dragon which is so good that the artist has to leave out the eyes, and then when the eyes are put in it comes to life; the general idea of the peaches of immortality; the waterfall which can transform a fish into a dragon if the fish can leap up it. Some I had not, and some are no doubt original. The protagonist, Minli, comes from a very poor village which is overlooked by a mountain on which nothing will grow because it is the heart of a dragon mother who has been separated from her children. Minli decides to travel to ask the Old Man of the Moon how to change her fortune, and in the process wanders through a great many stories about the moon, destiny, the nature of happiness, and the wicked deeds of a particular evil magistrate.

Many of the shorter stories are told separately as interjections in the text, which are told in a very oral style, inserted when some character tells a story, and this is part of what lends it the pleasantly rambling feel, these things that feel like digressions and aren't, necessarily. This is a text that is willing to take the scenic route to get where it is going, and which wants to remember that it does have oral roots. I think it would probably go well aloud.

I just simply liked this. It's sweet-natured, not overly preachy, and fun, and you get to sit there wondering how she's going to tie xyz disparate element in when it appears, and it all does wind up in a neat and prettily planned convergence. There's a lot of cool stuff-- talking lion statues, dragon pearls, kites flown on the threads of destiny-- and the whole is illustrated with the author's own (detailed and precise) full-color drawings. If you need a book to give to someone in elementary school any time soon, this would be a very good bet.

Date: 2011-07-11 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
China social studies unit comes up second quarter: sold!

Date: 2011-07-11 02:33 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
Okay, I just finished reading this yesterday, so I'm a little freaked out here.

I really liked the inset stories, and I really liked how sometimes Lin effectively disguised her stories, initially. It took me till halfway through the buffalo boy's story to realize, no this isn't an eastern version of the swan maidens but the early life of herd boy & weaver maiden.

Also, the braiding of the parents' story was very effectively handled for a middle-grade novel.


Date: 2011-07-11 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I loved this book, and I thought the presentation (the physical book, the fonts, and so on) was lovely too.


rushthatspeaks: (Default)

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