cover image How the Rooster Got His Crown

How the Rooster Got His Crown

Amy Lowry Poole. Holiday House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1389-8

First-time picture book author and artist Poole delves into the mythology of western China for this competent retelling of a Miao folktale with arresting illustrations. Drawing on traditional Chinese methods and materials for her ink and gouache artwork, she creates rousing landscapes in a largely earth-toned palette, invigorated by splashes of vibrant yellows, oranges and pinks. Poole weaves together stylized elements, such as the blurred ink lines of distant mountains, and recurring symbols and designs (spirals, yin-yangs and the like) with fluid brush strokes on a textured rice paper background. As the tale begins, ""long ago, when the world was new, there was not one but six suns blazing in the sky,"" the crops are threatened by a severe drought. After the emperor's best archers fail to shoot the suns down, Prince Haoyi successfully sends his arrows into five of the suns' reflections in a pond. The sixth sun takes refuge in a cave. Rejoicing turns to lamentation when perpetual night falls on the land, however, and only when a small rooster crows does the last sun emerge from his hiding place. In gratitude for the cheery greeting, the sun fashions a small red crown for the rooster's head. The text itself at times seems to be more concerned with symbolism than with spinning the tale, but Poole's considerable talent with a brush and her sophisticated color sense make for a splendid artistic debut. The Kabuki-like faces of the characters accentuate the formality of the text and may put some readers in mind of spectating at a play. An afterword explains the meaning behind the Chinese symbols, along with the scroll-making technique Poole learned in Beijing. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)