Books by YongSheng Xuan

D IS FOR DRAGON DANCE by Ying Chang Compestine
ABC BOOKS
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

Compestine offers a simple introduction to the Chinese New Year in the form of an alphabet book, but the information provided is slight. "V is for Veneration" is explained with the enigmatic line, "Families venerate their ancestors at New Year's." Not a very meaningful sentence, though the illustration showing a family bowing in front of an altar offers clues. The jewel-like paintings of a traditional Chinese family (complete with an incongruous TV and an electric fan) celebrating the holiday by donning new clothes, getting haircuts, making paper cuts, bringing oranges to friends and eating ceremonial foods are engaging. A playful yellow cat cavorts with a mouse throughout, adding more child appeal. There is another, more subtle design element: The artist has used four different calligraphic styles to create backgrounds on each page. An author's note offers a little more explanation of the festival, but this visual treat should be supplemented by something more substantial. A recipe for dumplings and a Chinese Zodiac chart are included. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
THE STORY OF NOODLES by Ying Chang Compestine
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 15, 2002

This story may leave your mouth watering for noodles and your chopsticks at the ready, as Compestine and Xuan (The Story of Chopsticks, 2001) cook up a tale explaining the origins of a favorite Chinese food. The three Kang brothers are back again, eager and creative, especially after they ruin mother's dumpling dough. Instead of following Mama Kang's instructions, the boys try to save time and wind up with strips of dough all over the house. Although the transition isn't clear enough in the story, the boys have invented noodles, or mian tiao, flour strips. They also are prepared to demonstrate three different ways of eating the new dish at the cooking contest that Mama Kang hopes to win. The boys' humorous exploits are brought to life in Xuan's illustrations, created with vivid colors surrounded by the striking black lines of traditional paper cuts. The borders of textured flour paste are less successful. The author's note confirms that the Kang brothers are not alone when they roll their noodles around chopsticks like a drumstick or make loud noises like "sucking a worm" or "cut the grass" with their teeth. These are all ways that today's children (and grown-ups) eat their noodles. A recipe for long-life noodles is appended. An appetizingly funny story, but look elsewhere for the real story of how noodles came into the heart of Chinese cuisine. (Picture book. 6-9)Read full book review >
THE STORY OF CHOPSTICKS by Ying Chang Compestine
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 15, 2001

Kùai, the hungry younger brother in a large Chinese family, never gets enough to eat. Straight from the fire, the food is too hot to touch. If he waits for it to cool, his brothers beat him to it. Frustrated, Kùai devises a way to get the food first. While his family washes for dinner, Kùai snatches two pieces of kindling, sits down at the table, and spears a steaming sweet potato with one stick and a sizzling chicken chunk with the other. Inspired, his family fetches sticks themselves. They name them Kùai zi, or "quick ones," after the quick-witted boy. As the story goes, "this was the first time that a family in China ate dinner with sticks instead of their hands." When Kùai and his brothers whip the sticks out at a wedding buffet, their idea catches on. The wise Mr. Lee commands the family to visit the village elders, whom he convinces that using Kùai zi does not violate any Chinese rules for eating. Word reaches the Emperor and soon, people throughout China start using chopsticks. Compestine (The Runaway Rice Cake, 2000) concocts a delicious blend of fact and fiction. But children may wonder why Kùai can put the too-hot food in his mouth and not in his hands. An author's note explains the true origins of chopsticks, leaving out Compestine's fabled details. Back matter also includes directions for using chopsticks and a recipe. Burning questions aside, Compestine's charming tale deserves a place in the multicultural curriculum. Xuan's richly colored traditional Chinese cut paper illustrations lend authenticity. (Picture book. 5-10)Read full book review >
TEN SUNS by Eric A. Kimmel
ANIMALS
Released: April 15, 1998

This exquisitely illustrated Chinese legend explains why just one sun rests in the sky above. In a long-ago time, the Emperor Di Jun has ten suns—his sons. Each day, they take turns orbiting the earth by walking across the sky, bringing light and warmth to the planet and its people. Though the people show their gratitude by worshipping the Emperor-god and his suns, the boys soon grow weary of following the same path in solitude. Against their father's warnings, the suns walk across the sky together one day, and their combined heat sears the earth, drying the crops and soil, boiling the waters, and nearly killing all the earth's inhabitants. Di Jun sends an archer to find the suns and shoot them down, which the archer does, to all but one. Xuan's magical illustrations are as richly crafted and detailed as fine embroidery on Chinese silk. The varied vibrant colors, shapes, and textures are a feast: Sinews pop from trees, muscles bulge on the archer, garments roil and flow from the gods. Combined with Kimmel's simple yet captivating retelling, these evocative illustrations will appeal to readers and listeners alike. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8) Read full book review >