cover image Little Eagle

Little Eagle

Chen Jiang Hong, , trans. by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. . Enchanted Lion, $16.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-1-59270-071-4

Chen (The Magic Horse of Han Gan ) is as much a master of the brush as his heroes are of martial arts, and the skillful balance of the artist’s Chinese ink-and-gouache compositions parallels the equipoise of the young hero in training. Adopted as a baby by the reclusive Master Yang, Little Eagle one night discovers that the old man practices Eagle boxing (a type of Kung Fu). After Master Yang realizes the boy has been spying on him, he reluctantly agrees to train him in both body and spirit: “To sharpen his eyes, he made himself count the stones on the hill, the grains of rice on his mat.... To train his ears, he listened to the minute vibrations of a suspended coin.” Chen’s story presses on toward a classic martial arts conclusion, in which Little Eagle fights the general responsible for his parents’ death, but loses his master (“The secrets of Eagle boxing have lived in me. It is now in you that they will live”). It’s through Chen’s use of color that the story’s emotional weight is revealed, from lime-yellow washes amplifying Little Eagle’s nighttime discovery to windswept blue summer skies underscoring the tranquility he seeks. Those attracted to the discipline and mystery of Asian fighting arts will find satisfaction here, and so will those who admire attention to detail. Chen does not set out to explain or update traditional Chinese culture; he aims solely to pay homage to it, and does so with remarkable force. Ages 4-up. (Oct.)