A retelling of an old Chinese folk tale emphasizes the goodness of its protagonist.
Young Tuan was orphaned as a little boy and raised by kindly neighbors who, when he is old enough, hire a matchmaker for him. The first match is no good, as their zodiacal symbols clash; the second founders on symbolic disagreement between their name characters. The third looks promising symbolically, but Tuan is just “too poor for her parents to approve.” Gathering cabbages by moonlight, Tuan spots a large snail and brings it home, keeping it in a jar and feeding it cabbage leaves. Over each of the next several days, Tuan arrives home to find his table set with a delicious dinner on it. Curious, he comes home early the next evening to discover a beautiful woman emerging from the snail’s jar; sent by the Lord of Heaven to look after him until he marries, she must now leave as she may not be gazed upon by mortals—but she leaves her shell behind, and it never runs out of rice. Hsyu’s retelling has a folkloric simplicity, planting just enough details to ground readers in the traditional tale. Pak’s mixed-media illustrations evoke a misty, long-ago agrarian China, his expressive, angular faces contrasting pleasingly with fluid, lovingly created backdrops. Although there is a concluding note on Chinese calligraphy, there is nothing to source the story itself.
A breath of fresh air in its beauty and simplicity. (Picture book/folk tale. 3-7)