cover image The Paper Dragon

The Paper Dragon

Marguerite W. Davol, Marquerite W. Davol. Atheneum Books, $24.99 (60pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31992-1

Davol's (Batwings and the Curtain of Night) eloquent original Chinese tale about a humble scroll artist who saves his village is the inspiration for Sabuda's (The 12 Days of Christmas) intricate and glorious gatefolds. Mi Fei goes to see the dragon, Sui Jen, at the behest of his fellow villagers. Sui Jen will stop terrorizing Mi Fei's village if he can perform three tasks (each completed with the aid of his scrolls), the last of which is to bring him the strongest thing in the world wrapped in paper. Mi Fei brings him love--in the form of a scroll depicting his beloved villagers. Sabuda, known for his artistic versatility, this time channels his zeal into creating exquisite two-dimensional cut-paper illustrations. He takes the story to epic proportions through the use of intriguing perspectives (e.g., the artist bowing before the enormous fire-breathing dragon or painting the life-saving scroll of his cherished villagers) that span three panels and are composed of tiny incisions in splattered, streaked, almost psychedelically colored tissue papers. In the climactic final scene, when Mi Fei presents his gift of love, the reader sees only the head of the great dragon (on the left). Opening the gatefold reveals a brilliant progression of color as the great head turns from deep green, purple and red to a golden path of flame and alights--in a paper image--in the palm of the artist's hand. Both artists have come together to celebrate their gifts in this ode to the simplest of all: love. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)