cover image The Painted Fan

The Painted Fan

Marilyn Singer. Morrow Junior Books, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-11742-9

``When the imperial houses of Li and Chen would not stop fighting,'' begins this exquisitely told tale, ``it was easy for Lord Shang to march in and set himself up as ruler.'' When cruel Lord Shang discovers that his bride-to-be, the peasant girl Bright Willow, loves not him but his groom, Seahorse, he angrily sentences Seahorse to death and Bright Willow to prison--unless she can bring him the Great Pearl. Her enchanted fan shields her from the powers of Red Fang (the pearl's demon guardian), and the fan's painted words, changing to suit the occasion, banish both Red Fang and Lord Shang forever. But Seahorse and Bright Willow are not the peasants they seem, and when they marry they hang above their bed the fan, which now reads, ``The houses of Li and Chen are reunited at last.'' In his first children's book, Ma contributes watercolors of unusual delicacy, but his penchant for expressionless faces may frustrate readers. Nonetheless, this polished story is utterly satisfying in its journey from chaos and confusion to order and harmony. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)