cover image The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes

The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes

Ying Chang Compestine, illus. by David Roberts. Abrams, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2542-5

Compestine (Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier) offers her retelling as a corrective to Hans Christian Andersen’s account. “The truth is that the story took place here in China, and without any tricky tailors,” she writes, promising to reveal the “real story.” In this version, the child emperor’s ministers take advantage of Ming Da’s youth to plunder the treasury, which he wants to use to feed the poor. The plan to make modest clothing belongs to the young emperor: he enlists the help of his tailors to dress him in rice sacks. “Honest people will see their true splendor,” he explains to the ministers, whose vanity, of course, gets the better of them. Roberts (The Prince and the Porker) has marvelous fun with the details of the Chinese court, rendering the robes, hats, and architectural flourishes of the palace with wit and style. The hero of the original tale was a child, too—but in this version he’s the author of the plan and the focus of the action, and the story is the better for it. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)