cover image The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale

Laurence Yep. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-024381-4

For aficionados of the ""Beauty and the Beast"" theme, this Southern Chinese adaptation of a traditional Chinese tale gains notability through Yep's (Dragonwings) elegant, carefully crafted storytelling. Seven, the seventh and youngest daughter of a poor farmer, consents to marry a dragon in order to save her father's life. The courageous girl soon perceives a strange beauty beneath the dragon's ferocity. Touching his cheek, she says, ""I know the loom and stove and many ordinary things, but my hand has never touched wonder."" The dragon then dances, ""curling his powerful body as easily as a giant golden ribbon"" and spins until he becomes ""a column of light, and from the light stepped a handsome prince."" An original twist involves an attempt by Seven's vindictive sister, Three, to usurp her riches and position. In contrast to Yep's fluent prose, Mak's visual imagery appears disjointed. Incongruously lifelike representations of the characters tend to chafe against the narrative's fantasy elements rather than ushering readers through the magical journey. Although skillfully and radiantly rendered (especially one painting of the dragon's watery home, with fish and kelp in the foreground), the illustrations adorn rather than enrich this alluring tale. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)