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MONKEY KING by Ed Young Kirkus Star

MONKEY KING

By Ed Young (Author) , Ed Young (Illustrator)

Pub Date: March 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-027919-2
Publisher: HarperCollins

Using a combination of handmade and bought papers, Young has created a dazzling collage adaptation of the traditional Chinese legend of the Monkey King. Brilliant shades of pink, purple, red, orange, gold, and green are offset by wispy whites and stark blacks on warm earth-toned backgrounds. The colors often leap and swirl across the pages, tracing the trajectories of Monkey’s energetic somersaults and mirroring his irrepressible personality. Always restless and eager for new adventures, Monkey simply can’t keep out of trouble. Born from an exploding rock, he fights the fierce Red Beard Bandit, steals a golden pillar from the underwater palace of the Dragon King, and gobbles up all the forbidden fruit from Jade King’s immortal peach tree. The centerpiece of the book, and of Monkey’s adventures, takes place on pages that fold out both horizontally and vertically as Monkey leaps to a place that he thinks is the end of the earth, but that turns out to be the upraised hand of Buddha. He scribbles, “Monkey was here,” thinking he has triumphed, but in fact he is trapped. After 500 years of captivity, he is freed to have a few more adventures before the end of the book, which concludes when he learns that there is “strength in admitting to weakness.” The narrator leaves the reader with a question and an answer—“Did Monkey’s humility last? That’s another story for another book.” Young’s prose is spare, and the placement of the words is brilliantly integrated into his page designs. An author’s note provides information on the Chinese epic Journey to the West, from which these episodes have been adapted. There is also a list of characters with their descriptions. This visually and thematically rich creation by one of our finest picture book artists is wonderful both to read aloud and to peruse and ponder at leisure. (Picture book/folktale. All ages)