cover image Ling Cho and His Three Friends

Ling Cho and His Three Friends

V. J. Pacilio. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34545-7

Forced rhyming couplets relate this overlong story of a farmer who teaches his friends the importance of asking for help in times of need. Ling Cho comes up with a plan to help three of his less prosperous neighbors: each will drive a wagonload of Ling Cho's surplus wheat to market and receive half of the profits. But all three neighbors return empty-handed. Ben Lo and Tsung Tae concoct fanciful stories; only Quan Jen admits that he took the wheat to feed his hungry family. Supposedly ""wise and kindly,"" Ling Cho comes across as condescending. He subtly but clearly punishes the first two, then lectures the truthful Quan Jen (""Through these many years of need, until this very day,/ Not once did you allow your friends to help in any way"") before drafting him for a permanent job. While Cook's (With a Whoop and a Holler) jaunty illustrations add a touch of humor, they draw more on Western conceptions of a quaint ""Orient"" than on a real historical China. Then again, there is little if anything in first-time author Pacilio's tale to account for its Chinese setting. Ages 5-up. (Mar.)