cover image Dragons Pearl Rnf

Dragons Pearl Rnf

Julie Lawson. Clarion Books, $15.95 (31pp) ISBN 978-0-395-63623-7

Dragon fans will hail the arrival of a cloud-breathing, rainmaking dragon of Chinese folklore, who provides a captivating (and benevolent) alternative to the European fire-breathing variety. Despite a severe drought, Xiao Sheng discovers a pearl that bestows good fortune upon his mother's land. When thieves attempt to steal the gem, the panicked boy swallows it, unleashing an ``intense heat'' that ``seared through him, as if he had swallowed a ball of fire'' and transforming him into a dragon. Far from being a curse, Xiao Sheng's new incarnation empowers him to breathe clouds into the sky, bringing rain and prosperity to all. In a polished display of verbiage, Lawson invests her colorful text with passion and drama, inspiring a fresh appreciation of the mythological beast. (Though occasionally the story's disparate elements threaten to become diffused, their focus unclear.) An absorbing explanation of Chinese dragon lore following the tale elucidates their revered status as water-gods. Morin's ( The Orphan Boy ) arresting collage illustrations incorporate scraps of painted burlap, stalks of grain, coins and pearls into lustrous oil paintings, enhancing the singular appeal of this impressive collaboration. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)