cover image White Tiger, Blue Serpent

White Tiger, Blue Serpent

Grace Tseng. William Morrow & Company, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-12515-8

First-time author Tseng, the daughter of the noted illustrators (Maples in the Mist), retells a folktale from southwest China. Kai and his mother work hard all day, Kai at fishing, his mother at weaving brocades that she barters for food and firewood. Kai loves the brocades, and convinces his mother to make just one for them to keep, promising to work even longer and harder to pay for it. But when the brocade is finished, the greedy goddess Qin steals it. Kai, drawing upon the heroic strength he has acquired from performing his extra work, defeats Qin's white tiger and blue serpent handily. Qin calls up a whirlwind to blow Kai away; not only does it send Kai back to his own land, but it blows the creatures off the brocade right along with him. Grace Tseng's formal tone combines immediacy with the timelessness of folklore (""A thousand of his mother's days and a thousand of her nights were in that brocade. He would not stand here and see it stolen!""). Jean and Mou-sien Tseng's watercolor paintings, said to be inspired by masterworks of the Ming Dynasty, are distinguished by both their delicacy of line and the fullness of the compositions. The formats are skillfully varied (some full bleeds, some bordered, some rendered in narrow panels reminiscent of Chinese scrolls) to quicken the pace and accentuate the drama of the tale. Ages 6-up. (May)