cover image The Shell Woman and the King: A Chinese Folktale

The Shell Woman and the King: A Chinese Folktale

Laurence Yep. Dial Books, $13.89 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1395-6

When Uncle Wu marries the beautiful Shell, who is of the sea and can assume the form of a seashell at will, he cannot resist bragging about her, and word soon reaches the realm's greedy, cruel king. The ruler imprisons Wu, vowing to kill him and marry Shell--unless she can perform three seemingly impossible tasks. Relying on both magic and wiles, she accomplishes all three feats and destroys the monarch forever. Yep's evocative yet gentle retelling emphasizes the story's romantic aspects as well as its supernatural qualities: Wu and Shell meet because both are lonely, and they establish their bond with mutual understanding and trust. Yang's exquisite pen-and-watercolor scenes have the simultaneous delicacy and strength of traditional Chinese art. His precise, graceful lines and soft colors capture both the mystery of Shell's transformations and the practical determination that underpins her eventual success, and evoke settings ranging from the solitary expansiveness of the South China shore to the cold, terrible splendor of the royal palace. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)