cover image Little Plum

Little Plum

Ed Young, Darrell Young. Philomel Books, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22683-0

The tiny triumphs over the mighty in this distillation of a Chinese folktale. Little Plum is born to an older, childless couple, whose desperate wish for a son ``even if he were only as big as a plum seed'' is granted quite literally. The boy soon demonstrates, in ways both big and small, that his wit and worth far exceed his size. For example, he coaxes the family mule into greater output by riding in its ears as it works, urging, ``Giddiyap'' and ``Hoy to it.'' When wicked city officials steal livestock from the impoverished villagers, Little Plum retrieves the animals, once again by crouching in their ears and calling out instructions. The enraged lord orders his men to attack Little Plum, but he outsmarts them by jumping onto the lord's beard. Young, a veteran teller of Chinese tales (Lon Po Po; The Red Thread), spins an engaging story; however, the somewhat anticlimactic resolution may leave readers puzzled (Why does the lord cede to Little Plum so quickly?). Grandly scaled pastel paintings feature a dramatic palette of fiery reds, purples and blues; their free-form style, unfortunately, makes it difficult to discern the subjects of some spreads. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)