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THE CRYSTAL HEART by Aaron Shepard


A Vietnamese Legend

adapted by Aaron Shepard & illustrated by Joseph Daniel Fiedler

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-689-81551-4
Publisher: Atheneum

High in her lonely tower, a mandarin’s daughter, Mi Nuong, gazes through a crescent window. A song floats up to her: “My love is like a blossom in the breeze. My love is like a moonbeam on the waves.” The girl is smitten. The song comes from a man gliding past the palace, rowing a fishing boat on the river. Her maid suggests it may be Mi Nuong’s intended, a mandarin’s son, in disguise. “Yes. Perhaps he is,” Mi Nuong murmurs, now really star-struck. But when it is revealed to her that the singer is only a poor fisherman, she laughs in his face. The fisherman, who had fallen in love with Mi Nuong at first sight, shrinks back to his humble cottage and dies, his heart having “turned hard to stop the pain.” It has also turned into a wondrous crystal that sits on the chest of his lifeless body, and the fisherman’s fellow villagers float it down the river to mingle with the ocean. It ends up on Mi Nuong’s beach, fashioned into a teacup, and when she goes to drink from it, she meets the fisherman’s eyes and realizes her folly. Her tears, falling into the cup, set his soul free. It is a keen tale of false expectations and confused priorities that Shepard (Master Maid, 1997, etc.) retells, where the power of a naive comment tips over into mortal cruelty. For his first picture book, Fiedler produces exquisite artwork; the landscapes are magically transporting, while the lustrous colors radiate an antique, spiritual quality. (Picture book/folklore. 6-9)