In this retelling of an ancient Chinese poem, a writer imagines the doomed love between the earthly and heavenly in this oversized picture book for older readers.
Returning from a visit with the emperor, poet Cao Zhi passes by the River Luo. “As the ancient tale goes, underneath the river lives a beautiful goddess”—so, as a writer, Cao decides to put forth his own story of a different goddess of the majestic river. Cao’s goddess is ethereal: “she dazzles like the sun rising in the morning…she’s as luminous as the lotus that grows in the shallows.” Love is instant between poet and goddess, but with love comes hesitation and worry. Ultimately, the goddess concludes that “the world of humans and gods could never exist together.” Readers unfamiliar with the poem will likely find the level of narrative detail insufficient, and consequently the melancholy ebbs rather than flows forth. Ye’s illustrations, however, are lush in detail and lovely in strangeness. The illustrator injects traditional elements of Chinese paintings with a modern playfulness and whimsy. Big-eyed fish, fantastical creatures, and odd flora and fauna fill the pages. Elements of the natural world adorn the Goddess of Luo to evoke the otherworldly. Instead of being enrobed by traditional Chinese clothing, a flowing cape ending in a fish tail drapes over her body. Strands of pearls surround her and come to life as fairies. Four multipage gatefolds stunningly capture both the movement in the illustrations and the scale of the tale.
Lavish illustrations elevate this adaptation of a classic. (glossary, notes) (Picture book. 9-14)