cover image Red Thread

Red Thread

Ed Young. Philomel Books, $14.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-21969-6

A familiar lesson in the ironies of fate finds an emotive and magnetic voice in this Chinese folktale. Eager to learn whom he will marry, Wei Gu seeks counsel from a spiritual matchmaker, who points out an infant carried on the back of a vegetable-monger. The angry young man refuses to accept such a destiny, but the elder explains that he and the baby have been inextricably linked since birth--``No matter how far apart they may live, how different their social status . . . a man and woman will eventually marry if their feet are tied together with this red thread.'' Young's pastel and watercolor illustrations alternate panoramic overviews of a busy Chinese village with impressionistic personal close-ups. While youngsters may have difficulty discerning the activity being portrayed amid the washes of blue, green and orange, the images' chimerical Old World atmosphere sustains the tone of the narrative. On every page a single red line--the eponymous thread--separates word from image, reminding readers of the inevitability of the matchmaker's words. Dramatic and haunting. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)