cover image THE SONS OF THE DRAGON KING: A Chinese Legend


Ed Young, . . S&S/Atheneum, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85184-1

Caldecott Medalist Young delivers some of his most exciting illustrations since Lon Po Po in this traditional Chinese tale about a Dragon King with nine sons. Unsettling rumors about his sons reach the Dragon King: one is said to be extraordinarily lazy, another to make "monstrous noises" all day long, and none acts as "befit[s] the son of a king" (children will quickly recognize most of these criticisms). Surreptitiously traveling to each of his progeny, the Dragon King quietly witnesses the various unseemly behaviors and then, wisely, sees in each a virtue that can help serve the kingdom. For example, Ba-Sha, who spends all his time swimming, delightedly accepts his father's suggestion that he oversee water safety. Even today, as facing text explains, whenever a son discovers his strength, the sons' roles remain visible in Chinese culture (Ba-Sha's face adorns bridges). Beyond its value in exploring Chinese imagery and myth, the book demonstrates simply and accessibly that even the most idle-seeming "talent" can be put to good use. Young's exceptionally deft and energetic illustrations of the sons animate the text. Rendered with ink and brush, these surprisingly funny dragons seem almost to move on the page (the maker of "monstrous noises" sings full-out, almost like an opera singer). More formal cut-paper pictures of the nine sons' images, in their traditional symbolic uses, balance the brushwork. With a design as elegant and lively as the prose is clear, this book is a welcome addition to the folktale shelf. Ages 5-8. (May)