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Selected Tales from Vietnam

by Sherry Garland & illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-15-224200-7
Publisher: Harcourt

Six stories of varying types have been chosen by an author who is familiar with the Vietnamese people in their own country and in the US. Although she gives no specific sources (an incongruity in an otherwise careful production), she acknowledges several Vietnamese friends who assisted her. Garland (In the Shadow of the Alamo, not reviewed, etc.) makes a significant contribution with her informative introduction about the history and culture of Vietnam and her helpful explanations after each tale. For example, “Chu Cuoi—the Man in the Moon” is followed by a description of Tet Trung Thu, the Moon Festival, which comes two weeks after the lunar New Year. Garland also describes natural phenomena, such as banyan trees, water buffalo, and monsoons, as well as cultural practices, such as the custom of arranging marriages, and expertly links these to the context of the stories. The last story, “The Bowmen and the Sisters,” has some familiar themes. A good sister displays kindness and receives a great reward while a mean sister behaves in a nasty manner and is severely punished. Because the story is about the encounters between the majority culture of the Viets and the minority culture of the moi, now known as montagnards or mountain people, the author has a chance to explain the place of these people with Vietnamese society. Hyman (The Serpent Slayer, 2000, etc.) uses India ink and acrylic paint with a delicate, yet bold hand to create affecting portraits, and realistic paintings of the flora and fauna of the region. Wondrous cameos of dragons lead off each story. This unusual collection of tales will work best for individual readers as they drink in the details of the stories, the background materials, and the paintings. (Folktales. 9-12)