In this humorous folktale, a cocky peasant, Mongke, sets out to win the hand of the Khan's daughter, and is given the requisite series of trials to prove his worth. He prevails, but not because he is particularly clever or brave. The Khan's daughter, Borta, is not looking for a hero anyway: she is perfectly happy with a guy who caves in at the first sign of danger. Yep's colloquial retelling--at one point a doubting Mongke takes a snack break on his way to slay some demons ""since food always cheered him up""--suits the unassuming tale. The brisk pace risks being cursory, but the prose is assured; in the peasant's first glimpse, the city of domed tents resembles ""so many buttons sewn onto a giant sheet of brown felt."" While the casual tone updates an old tale, the animated watercolors of the Tsengs, who have collaborated with Yep before (The Ghost Fox; The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes), establish the Mongolian setting. Their work hinting strongly at the influence of Chinese narrative painting, they adroitly portray the sumptuous dress of the Khan's court and the contrastingly plain landscapes. This story embraces human foibles with both the ageless charm of a traditional tale and the informal breeziness of a modern sensibility. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/03/1997 Release date: 03/01/1997 Genre: Children's
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.