cover image The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale

The Cricket Warrior: A Chinese Tale

Margaret Chang. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-50605-5

When Cheng Ming and his son, Wei nian, capture a stout cricket, it looks as though they may be able to save their failing farm: the insect will serve as their overdue tax to the emperor, who loves cricket fights. Wei nian's curiosity gets the better of him, however, and, when he tries to get a better look at the cricket, it escapes. Desperate to make amends, Wei nian says yes when a mysterious old man asks him if he would like to take the cricket's place. Soon a scrawny but spirited red cricket becomes court champion. The Changs' (In the Eye of War) dynamic retelling of this tale, which was first recorded in the 17th century, emphasizes Wei nian's concern with honor, the humor of his role as underdog (facing his first cricket opponent, he ``waved [his] antennae, trying to look fierce'') and the strength of the familial bond: although Cheng Ming has received riches for his cricket and Wei nian as cricket has garnered fame, both are truly happy only when they are reunited. Hutton (Persephone) evokes a memorable Chinese landscape, serene and seemingly timeless under an inky moonlit sky. His delicate lines and luminiscent washes capture the feistiness of the red cricket as well as the magic attending the transformations that frame the tale. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)