cover image The Voice of the Great Bell

The Voice of the Great Bell

Margaret Hodges, Lafcadio Hearn. Little Brown and Company, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-316-36791-2

A haunting cover illustration gives way to the story of a legend associated with the Great Bell of Beijing. Nearly 500 years ago, the Emperor of China, Sun of Heaven, commanded Kouan-Yu to gather together worthy men to create the greatest of bells, ``strengthened with brass, deepened with gold, sweetened with silver.'' But the metals will not blend; when the cast is made and the mold removed, the bell falls apart. When a second attempt also fails, Sun of Heaven threatens Kouan-Yu with death. Kouan-Yu's daughter, Ko-Ngai, discovers that the only way the metals will bond is if a pure young maiden is thrown into the molten mass. She sacrifices herself, and to this day, when the bell tolls, it calls her name. Hearn's story, first evocatively retold by Hodges in 1963, is stunningly illustrated by Young. Swirling, fiery colors heighten the drama, symbolized with images: the hands of a master bellmaker, Ko-Ngai's eyes during her fearful vigil, the faces of the workers attempting the impossible. Ages 5-9. (May)