Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Chinese children's favourite stories

Ye, Mingmei. Chinese children's favourite stories, Boston, MA. : Tuttle Pub, 2004.
This children’s book collects 12 Chinese traditional folktales and legends, which feature talking animals, a ghost catcher, a trickster fox, the River Dragon King, and the prankish monkey Wu Kong, as well as cowherds, scholars, musicians, and emperors. Most of the stories are familiar to Chinese people. Some stories regard morals; others explain the origins of customs or traditions. These stories include “The Frog Who Lived in the Well” and “The Monkey King who Turned the Heavenly Palace Upside Down”, and they are all suitable for reading to children at bedtime. The art has traditional Chinese characters with abundant colorful illustrations and the writing is clear and acceptable to children.

The Silk Princess

Santore, Charles. The silk princess, New York: Random House Children's Books, c2007.
This is a picture book for children aged 9-12 years with beautiful illustrations. It is a vivid Chinese folklore legend which retells a story of how silk was discovered. A princess watches a cocoon fall from a mulberry tree into her mother’s teacup and the cocoon unravels in the hot water. She wonders how far the thread will stretch. She thinks up a fun game in which she ties one end of the thread to her waist, and her mother holds the remaining, then she walks away slowly. She walks through the palace and goes too far way. She goes onto the nearby mountains. There she meets a dragon and a wise old man, who is a silk weaver. The old man teaches her the secret of how to harvest the cocoons and weave the thread into gorgeous silk cloth. After a time, she goes back to her mother and shares her secret.

The beggar's magic: a Chinese tale

Chang, Margaret Scrogin. The beggar's magic: a Chinese tale, New York: M. K. McElderry, c1997.

This is an ancient Chinese folktale, which retells a story about selfishness and sharing. An old beggar-priest arrives in a small village, Fu Nan and his father are totally astonished by the priest who shows the most wonderful and miraculous magic tricks in the world: He draws a sparrow on a paper, then the sparrow turns into a real sparrow and escapes from the page; he fills an old widow’s dry well with full of sweet clean water. When the Moon Festival arrives, the wealthy farmer Wu refuses to share his food with the other villagers, and ripe pears with the priest. The slighted beggar-priest picks up a pear seed, and performs a magic trick that makes the selfish, greedy farmer the laughingstock of the village.

The cat's tale: why the years are named for animals

Orgel, Doris. The cat's tale: why the years are named for animals, New York: Roaring Brook, 2008.

This is a well-know Chinese folktale explaining the naming of the Chinese zodiac. When Willow’s grandma is reading a titular story, the child’s cat, Mao, scratches her granddaughter, Nai Nai, so Nai Nai pushes the cat away from her lap. Mao gets angry and tells her own story. Mao narrates the story of how the Emperor Jade once invited his 13 favorite animals including the Ox, Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig and Cat to a river race. Because some of the animals cannot swim, the emperor arranges that Rabbit and Rooster ride on Dragon’s back, Rat and his friend Cat sit on Ox’s back, and the rest of other animals plunge into the river. The cunning rat betrays the Cat by pushing him into the river. By clawing his way onto a rock in the river, Cat watches how Rat leaps ashore ahead of Ox and comes first to win. Jade Emperor is very happy, and decides to name the first year of the cycle the Year of Rat with every successive year named for the animals that completed the race, except Cat who has not finished. So the Cat and Rat became enemies from that time on. This is a beautiful picture book for children with bright watercolour painting illustrations.

White tiger, blue serpent

Tseng, Grace. White tiger, blue serpent, New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, c1999.
A lovely original fantasy based on a folktale from China’s Yunan Province. Two lands are divided by a raging river, one of which is a rich and fertile land which belongs to a Jealous goddess Qin, and is protected by a white tiger and a serpent; the other shore is barren and poor. There is a bridge that connects the two lands, but no one goes to the rich land. Kai and his mother grow up on the barren west shore. Kai’s mother is a master weaver who is good at weaving gorgeous silk brocades, which she barters for food and firewood. Kai has loved brocades for years, and he persuades his mother to make one for him to keep. To compensate for the loss, they make a pact; during the day she works on it, Kai has to work harder and longer to support them. Kai works like a man for a thousand days to fulfill his promise, and becomes supernaturally strong, agile and sharp-eyed. When the brilliant brocade is finished, the greedy goddess Qin sends a wind that sweeps it away. Kai starts his journey bravely to regain the brocade. He uses his newfound strengths to defeat the white tiger and the serpent…

How the rooster got his crown

Poole, Amy Lowry. How the rooster got his crown, New York: Holiday House, c1999.
This is a traditional well-know Chinese folktale set in ancient China. This book has stunningly, transporting artworks and a lovely story. In the early days of the earth, there are 9 suns in the sky. People named them with ancient icons such as Yin-Yang, the spiral, the maze, the raven and a star. When the rains fail, the suns start to roast the earth. All soil, rivers and lakes are in ruins; all living things die one after another. People have to live in caves and cannot come out in the daylight. Wise people gather together to discuss how to take action to save the earth. As a result, a clever and skilful archer named Yi is called from a remote land. He faces 9 suns bravely, uses his powerful arch shooting every suns’ reflection in a pond, so 8 suns drop except one sun which survives. After this he is so scared so that he hides in a cave and never comes out. Nine suns are too many, but only one is very essential. The earth turns into dark. People make every effort to coax the sun out, but the sun still refuses to come out. Until the lowly rooster starts to sing, and the sun is bewitched by the rooster’s singular song and appears. Once the sun hears the people’s cheers for his appearance, he relaxes, enjoys the encouragement, and then goes back to the heaven. Therefore, people gave the crown to the rooster to reward his outstanding achievement in saving the earth, and the rooster gets his glorious task to wake up the sun by singing every morning.

Yeh Shen: a Cinderella story from China

Louie, Ai-Ling. Yeh Shen: a Cinderella story from China, New York: Philomel, c1982.

This picture book won an award for children’s books. This Chinese folklore is set in the Chinese Han dynasty.  A poor girl named Yeh Shen lives with her stepmother and a stepsister. Her stepmother doesn’t like Yeh Shen because she is more beautiful and kinder than her own daughter and treats her poorly. Yeh Shen’s only one friend is a beautiful fish with golden eyes. But one day her stepmother kills the fish and cooks it for dinner. While Yeh Shen is crying for the dead fish, a mysterious old man appears and tells her a secret; the fish bones are filled with a powerful spirit, so Yeh Shen retrieves the bones from trash and hides them in a safe place. After a time, her stepmother and stepsister leave for the spring festival to look for a mate for her daughter and leave Yeh Shen alone at home. Yeh Shen desires to go to that party, so she begs the bone for clothes to wear. Her dream comes true. She is suddenly dressed in a brilliant gown and cloak. On her feet are a pair of gorgeous golden slippers. She grabs all the attention in the village, but she leaves one of her golden slippers behind when she is dashing out of the village due to the fear of being discovered by her stepmother. Soon a merchant finds her lost slipper and the slipper is passed on to the king. The king wonders who is the owner of this tiny slipper and sends people to search around his kingdom, and finally finds Yeh Shen. The king is captivated by her beauty and marries her and lives happily ever after.

The ballad of Mulan

Zhang, Song Nan. The ballad of Mulan, Pan Asian, 1998.
A Chinese folktale based on a poem from the Sung Dynasty that narrates the story of a poor young girl who is living in a small village in ancient China. One day, the government comes down to this village to recruit new soldiers. Due to the serious shortage of new soldiers to fight the enemy Tartars, Mulan Fa’s elder father has to join the army. In order to save her father, Mulan Fa disguises herself as a man to join the army. She becomes a women soldier but nobody knows. In the following years, Mulan Fa turns into a girl hero who leads the army of China to fight bravely against the enemy and make a great contribution to the country. Only when she is going to retire from the army, does a general discover she is a girl and starts to fall in love with her.
This is a Chinese picture book for children, with the text in both English and Chinese. The author, Zhang Song Nan is a Chinese artist, illustrator, and author who has published over 14 books. This folktale has been made into animation by Disney. 

The seven Chinese sisters

Tucker, Kathy. The seven Chinese sisters, Morton Grove, III. : A. Whitman, 2003
A Chinese traditional folktale narrates a story of how six talented Chinese sisters rescue their youngest sister from a dragon. This is a picture book for children aged 0-8 years old. A long time ago, there were seven Chinese sisters who lived together happily in the countryside. Each of them has a unique talent: The eldest sister rides a scooter as fast as the wind; the second eldest knows karate; the third can count to 500 and beyond; the fourth can talk to dogs; the fifth sister can catch any balls; the sixth can cook delicious noodle soup, all, except the youngest baby’s talent has been discovered. One day, a hungry red dragon from faraway smells the noodle soup and flies to their house. The dragon snatches the seventh sister for his dinner instead of the noodle soup so the six sisters go off to rescue her. Each of the sisters utilizes their unique skills in the rescue mission such as the fifth sister using her dog talking ability to communicate with the dragon.

Where the mountain meets the moon

Lin, Grace. Where the mountain meets the moon, New York: Little, Brown and Co, 2009.

This book narrates a Chinese traditional adventure fantasy folktale story and it has won the Caldecott Medal award.
A poor girl, Minli, is living at the confluence of the Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River with her desperate parents. Her family is working in rice fields where they barely grow enough to feed themselves. Every night her father tells her stories about Jade Dragon the creature that keeps the mountain poor. only the old man of the moon can change everyone’s destiny. One day, a goldfish salesman promises that his wares will bring  good luck, Minli spends one of her only two coins in order to save her family. When her mother ridicules her foolish purchase, Minli insists to set out to find the old man of the Moon in her quest to change her family’s fortunes. The journey is full of excitement, danger, humor, magic and wisdom. Along the way of her adventure, she makes friends with the talking goldfish who gives her clues to complete her journey, a flightless dragon who becomes her partner, an orphan and other helpmates including a king.
The storyline of this book is intricately plotted and plot-driven with stylistically complex writing style and beautiful language. It received a five star rating of popularity in the  children’s book catagory.

Favorite children's stories from China and Tibet

Hume, Lotta Carswell. Favorite children's stories from China and Tibet, Boston: Tuttle, 2004.
A popular folktale collection from China and Tibet tells 19 fascinating, time-honored stories including “How the Cock Got His Red Crown”, “The Tower That Reached from Earth to Heaven,” “The Tiger in Court” and “Chinese Cinderella”, etc. These fresh and charming stories are filled with humor which reflects Chinese life and culture, and are suitable for children to read at bedtime.

Lon Po Po: a red-riding hood story from China

Young, Ed. Lon Po Po: a red-riding hood story from China, New York: Philomel, 1989.

The author, Ed Young, is a very famous Chinese illustrator who is well-know for drawing beautiful children’s picture books. This book was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1990. The genre of this book is a cautionary Chinese folktale and verse. An example of nonsexist children’s literature with a suspenseful tone, It describes three sisters who stay at home alone and a hungry wolf which sees them and tries to work out various methods in order to enter the house to eat them. The wolf disguises itself as their grandmother and knocks at the door. The clever elder sister discovers the wolf’s deception and thinks up a smart plan to capture the wolf and save her sisters and herself.

The dragon's tale and other animal fables of the Chinese zodiac

Demi. The dragon's tale and other animal fables of the Chinese zodiac, New York: H. Holt and Company, 1996.
This is a children’s book that collects Chinese tradition fables regarding the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each of the collected fables/folktales contains meaningful educational messages with playful, richly colored illustrations. A clever fox demonstrates how a small creature must live by his wisdom.  An overconfident boar learns the lesson that pride causes calamities. A wise dragon educates that, the more you know, the more you need to know. The author, Demi, has published many books, including the picture book biographies of Buddha and The Dalai Lama.

The silk tapestry and other Chinese folktales

Atangan, Patrick. The silk tapestry and other Chinese folktales, New York: NBM, c2004.
A graphic novel collects three Chinese folktales revolving around the unique struggle of three artists including a wide spirit, an old woman and a young boy passionately devote themself to change the world around them. The first story, “The Story of Pan-Gu” describes a spirit named Pan-Gu separates the heaven and the earth, and creatives a barren world with his hope. He lives lonely in his entire long life. After he dies, the remaining of his body turns into our world including human being. The second folktale, “Silk Tapestry”, narrates a story about an old poor woman is given a silk cloth by the river spirit named Yangtze, and races death to sew it into a magic tapestry, so that her fondest dream will comes true. In the third folktale, “Sausage-Boy and His Magic Brush”, depicts a pudgy boy named Sausage whose drawing is so great that his paintings spring to life. A greedy dowager empress is attracted by his abilities, so she kidnaps the boy to create riches for her…

The dragon new year: a Chinese legend

Bouchard, Dave. The dragon new year: a Chinese legend, Atlanta, GA: Peachtree, c1999.

This is an awarded children’s book about a Chinese folklore that explains why people set off firecrackers to celebrate the New Year. This book is for young children aged 4-5 years old. A young girl is frightened by the big noise and bright light of the dragon dance in the traditional Chinese New Year celebration while she is sleeping. Her grandma comes to comfort her by telling her a Chinese folktale. In the old days, it is dead quiet during New Years because people escape due to the fear from a red fierce sea dragon, which comes out to massacre people and destroy villages every year. Since the dragon lives at the bottom of the ocean, it is very dark, cold and quiet. So a wise Buddha thinks out a plan to scare the dragon away by making loud noises and bright light. He invents firecrackers, which are made from explosives and paper. When people burn them, they can produce sharp light and big noise. After the red dragon is driven away forever, burning firecrackers and having firework displays have become a Chinese folk custom in order to remember the achievement of Buddha and celebrate the New Year.

Tales from Gold Mountain: stories of the Chinese in the New World

Yee, Paul. Tales from Gold Mountain: stories of the Chinese in the New World, New York: Macmillan, 1989.
A collection of eight original unforgettable folktales is based on the real background of the Chinese immigration’s role in the gold rush and is accompanied with brilliant and dramatic illustrations by Simon. It reflects the gritty spirit of the Chinese, despite the bitterness of daily toils to overcome prejudice and adversity to build a unique place for themselves in North America. Each story is relatively short; only two or three pages, but each one discusses some important themes such as prejudice, racism, and dishonesty. These unpleasant topics don’t  look good for children’s stories, but the nature of the book is aimed to stimulate children’s courage to face  a variety of difficulties in their life. It combines an attention-grabbing and a descriptive writing style with a suspenseful tone. This is an excellent children’s book, which is suited to talking about and reading out loud, so that children can learn from the past.

Mouse match: a Chinese folktale

Young, Ed. Mouse match: a Chinese folktale, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, c1997.
It retells a very famous traditional Chinese folktale about the truth that nothing is completely prefect; everything has its strength and weakness.  The parents of a mouse want to seek the greatest and most powerful husband for their cherished daughter. The first suitor is the sun with whom her parents are very satisfied; but suddenly a dark cloud passes and eclipses the sun, so her parents consider the cloud is better than the sun; after a while, a wind comes to propose and he easily blows the cloud away. The wind is proud of his unbeatable power until a majestic mountain blocks his way. Despite the wind making great efforts to blow it away; the mountain is still standing stably.  As her parents are going to make their decision on the selection of the mountain, they discover that the mountain is full of caves and have already been nibbled to crumbs by mice. At last her parents realize that a mouse would be their best choice and their daughter finally marries with a mouse. This is an awarded children’s book which combines an excellent meaningful story, unconventional application of colors and special binding.

The sons of the Dragon King: a Chinese legend

Young, Ed. The sons of the Dragon King: a Chinese legend, New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2004.
A well-known Chinese folktale talks about a Dragon King who investigates each of his nine sons to discover their individual talents and find a role that suits their strengths. The Dragon King has nine immortal sons. After they grow up and leave their father’s palace, they seem to be aimless, and fritter their days away. The wise and watchful Dragon King quietly witnesses their various unseemly behaviors, and then discovers their individual strengths and finds a way to exploit their personal potential that can help to serve the kingdom. For instance, his second son, Chi Wen, constantly stares into the distance intently, so he gives him the  job of sentinel; Ba-Sha, spends most of her time swimming, so she is delighted to accept her father’s suggestion to   overseer water safety; the one who makes “monstrous noises” all day long finally gets the job to aid musicians; the strong one holds up roofs; and so on. The illustrations of this picture book are absolutely fantastic. It is rendered in brush ink and the nine-dragon sons use Chinese traditional cut-paper technology, which has an excellent appearance.

White wave

Wolkstein, Diane. White wave, San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, c1996.

An award winning children’s picture book talks about a beautiful Chinese folktale.A poor solitary farmer, Kuo Ming finds an opalescent snail shell and takes it home. The next evening, when he goes home from the field, he is surprised that somebody has already made the dinner for him. He wants to find out what has happened, and by the spying, he discovers that a women of light, the moon goddess is living in the shell and comes out to make him dinner. He knows he can’t touch her, but eventually he cannot refrain, and as a result he loses her. As she is going, she tells him her name, white wave, and a promise that she keeps. He builds a shrine to keep the shell carefully and tells his children the tale. When he dies, both the shell and shrine become lost. The storyline of the book is plot-driven with a sad tone.This book is the second revised edition. The illustrator Young, Ed is a well-know Chinese children’s books illustrator who has published over eighty books. It has B&W illustrations with excellent use of negative space. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Three monks, no water

Ye, Ting-xing. Three monks, no water, Toronto: Annick, 1997.
This is a picture book for children aged from 9-12 regarding a familiar Chinese folktale. It has a well-know Chinese proverb, “One boy is a boy, two boys  half boy, three boys no boy.”
This Chinese folktale is set a long time ago in a remote mountain temple, a Buddhist monk who lives alone has to travel a long way to the nearest stream to fill and carry two buckets of water for drinking every day. One day, when a second monk joins this temple, this hard job turns easy and is done efficiently. They share the task and carry the water together. But soon, after the arrival of a third monk into this temple, they start to pass the buck, and no one is willing to go for the water and because of this the temple suffers a drought. Then one night one monk carelessly sets the temple on fire, the monks have to negotiate and scramble to carry water to put out the fire. The story is telling people how individuals need to establish rules to avoid members shirking group responsibilities. This book is composed of very beautiful acrylic and colored pencil illustrations, on a textured golden background. It is recommend that every child read this book.