When Mulan’s frail father is conscripted into the Chinese emperor’s army, she decides to disguise herself as a man and take her father’s place.
Over many years of waging war, Mulan’s strength and bravery earn her ever higher ranks and even her own command. When the emperor himself rewards her for her many victories, she is finally granted what she desires most: to return home. There, after reuniting with her family, she reveals herself as a woman to her fellow soldiers, who exclaim in surprise. Many may already know this story from the 1998 Disney movie adaptation or other versions, but this edition is unique in its accurate retelling, bordering on translation, of the original Chinese poem. Unfortunately, this strict adherence to a sixth-century text (included in the backmatter) makes for a disjointed and unemotional experience, as the poem highlights moments within the story rather than telling a fleshed-out narrative. For example, what Mulan purchased in preparation for departure is detailed, but how she evaded detection as a woman for so many years is not addressed. And of her return home, “Mulan hugged her family. / She was happy to see them.” The retelling leaves many questions unanswered and emotional touch points underdeveloped. Handsome accompanying illustrations depict Mulan’s beauty and strength wonderfully, though backgrounds and secondary characters pale in comparison.
This faithful adaptation’s lack of narrative detail will fail to engage readers. (Folktale. 4-8)