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THE MAGIC HORSE OF HAN GAN by Chen Jiang Hong Kirkus Star


by Chen Jiang Hong & illustrated by Chen Jiang Hong & translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-59270-063-2
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Hong illustrates this new, if familiarly premised, legend about a historical Tang Dynasty artist with big, splendidly accomplished paintings, brushed on brown silk in a traditional style. Little Han Gan is too poor to afford brushes and paper, but such is his talent that even a drawing in the dirt earns him the support of renowned painter Wang Wei. This is followed by admission to an academy and wide fame for painting horses so spirited that they are said to come to life. One night, a literal-minded warrior comes to beg for a steed, and Han Gan actually creates one that springs off the paper. After many battles, though, the horse tires of the blood and death, and so Han Gan wakes one day to find that a sixth has joined the five horses he painted the day before. The youthful but dignified painter, the glowering warrior and especially the succession of muscular, proud, subtly hued horses will have a powerful impact on young audiences. Shelve this plainly told tale next to such similar tales of artistic transformations as Elizabeth Partridge’s Kogi’s Mysterious Journey (2003), Margaret Leaf’s Eyes of the Dragon (1987) or the various renditions of “The Boy Who Drew Cats.” (author’s note) (Picture book. 7-9)