cover image CHILDREN OF THE DRAGON: Selected Tales from Vietnam

CHILDREN OF THE DRAGON: Selected Tales from Vietnam

Sherry Garland, , illus. by Trina Schart Hyman. . Harcourt, $18 (64pp) ISBN 978-0-15-224200-8

"Once upon a time in old Vietnam," begins "The Raven and the Star Fruit," exemplifying the spell of enchantment cast over these half dozen stories. If the setting is exotic—with its banyan trees and lotus blossoms, water buffalo and tigers—the classic themes are universal. They include talking animals and beautiful princesses, requited and unrequited love as well as familiar human flaws. For instance, in the above-mentioned tale a raven rewards the generosity of a poor couple by leading them to an island of treasures, while the same opportunity has disastrous results for the husband's foolish elder brother and his greedy wife. Garland (Shadow of the Dragon) places each story within its historical, geographical and cultural context, enriching readers' understanding of Vietnam and its people. "The Legend of the Monsoon Rains" recounts the ongoing dispute between the Lord of the Mountains and the Lord of the Seas for the hand of the emperor's daughter followed by a discussion of Vietnam's crops and weather; the tale of "The Boatman's Flute" highlights the country's transportation and governmental systems. Hyman (A Child's Calendar) complements the richly embroidered retellings with jewel-like India ink and acrylic illustrations. From the fluid pattern of stripes on a tiger's back (for a pourquoi tale) to the dark sweep of a maiden's hair and lissome bend of a willow branch, the artist applies her signature flowing lines and graceful artistry; she captures all the romance and beauty of the stories and their setting. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)