Search Results: Jean Tseng


BOOK REVIEW

CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 30, 1997

Mermaids haunt the waters of the world from the Lake of Zug in Switzerland to the reefs of Hawke Bay on the North Island of New Zealand. In a companion to A Treasury of Princesses (1996, not reviewed), Climo gathers eight representative tales of these beguiling aquatic creatures who know charms, cast spells, shift shapes, and wreak havoc, both undersea and above ground. Climo's compendium features an oceanic Snow Whitelike Scottish selkie story, a disagreeable Icelandic merman trickster tale, and a Japanese shape-shifting snapper who comprehends the language of the birds. The spectrum of mermaids appears here: powerful magicians filling the nets of fishermen, seductive voices luring sailors to their watery graves, or simply fish out of water, attempting misguided lives among humans. An eerily enchanting watercolor panel launches each mer-tale, followed by a pen-and-ink detail inserted in the story. Many of the stories adapted and collected here can be readily found in other sources, such as Mary Pope Osborne's Mermaid Tales from Around the World (1993). While the introduction to each tale demonstrates prodigious research, it becomes confusing in the inclusion of countries and of the various names of mermaids, until readers may feel awash in information. A section of story notes completes the collection. (Folklore. 6-10) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

THE KHAN'S DAUGHTER by Laurence Yep
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 1997

Yep (The Boy Who Swallowed Snakes, 1994, etc.) extends his series of picture-book retellings of Asian folktales with this Mongolian story of a poor young shepherd who wins the hand of the Khan's daughter through dumb luck and the smitten maiden's collusion. As is usual in such stories, there are three impossible tasks to be accomplished before the hero, Mîngke, may wed lovely Borte. He vanquishes seven gruesome demons, frightens off an enemy army, and, in a trial suggested by Borte, "conquers" Bagatur the Clever and Mighty (actually his bride-to-be disguised as a warrior) by surrendering the instant he is endangered. The high-spirited story is ideal—barring a few awkward phrases—for reading aloud. The Tsengs' vibrant watercolors bring the windswept Mongolian steppes and the proud luxury of the Khan's court vividly to the page. The jacket art is especially striking: A montage of acrylic on gold leaf shows Borte in a bejeweled headdress, Mîngke astride his sturdy pony at full gallop, and the wind-whipped banners and embroidered felt tents of the Khan's realm. (Picture book/folklore. 7-10) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

MAPLES IN THE MIST by Minfong Ho
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

A collection of tiny poems set against watercolors painted in the Chinese tradition. These Tang Dynasty poems, translated from the Chinese, were traditionally memorized by children learning to read. Ho (Hush!, p. 227) tells readers in the brief, intimate introduction how the book grew out of her desire to pass these vivid four-line verses on to her own children. The poems are immediate and accessible: ``When I was little/I thought the moon was a white jade plate,/Or maybe a mirror in Heaven/Flying through blue clouds.'' In ``News of Home,'' the poet asks, ``The day you left, was the plum tree/By my window in bloom yet?'' The sound of a bell at night, the snow-white hair on an old man, frosted leaves ``redder than spring blossoms''— these seemingly artless images compress a depth of feeling nicely reflected in the pictures. The dreamlike world of recognition and memory in the watercolors is firmly yoked to the images in the poems. More mature poetry fans will recognize many of the names here; an ``About the Poets'' section offers brief biographies. (Picture book/poetry. 6-9) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

ANIMALS
Released: Nov. 30, 1997

The village social life and customs in the central highlands of Vietnam prior to the involvement of the US provide an affecting platform for the author's warm memories of a childhood enriched by close relationships with the animals vital to the family's economic survival. Delicate pencil drawings accompany the first-person narrative that shows the role water buffaloes played during dry-season farming and rainy-season hunting. They were creatures of such importance that, when one named Water Jug dies of old age, it is only fitting that he is buried in the graveyard, ``as we had done for all the dead of our family.'' The boy hopes for a new bull with the same gentle temperament as Water Jug's, but his father has always dreamed of a replacement bull that would be not only a valuable worker, but a strong fighter and true leader when tigers, panthers, and lone wild hogs from the jungle threaten the village's herd. The father brings home a calf from a distant village, but delays naming him until his nature makes one apparent. After a fight in which he bests the reigning leader of the herd, the young bull is named Tank. Fierce in battle, Tank's gentleness otherwise earns him the respect of the village, and readers will come to admire him; his death, the result of ``a single misplaced bullet'' in a military skirmish, is very affecting. In Tank's passing, the author brings home the waste of war, in a book written from the heart. (Autobiography. 7-10) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

THE BOY WHO SWALLOWED SNAKES by Laurence Yep
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Puzzlingly described as an "original folktale" (LC classifies it in 398.2), the bizarre story of Little Chou, a poor Chinese boy who finds, hidden in a basket of silver, an evil ku snake that kills people and takes their money to its master. When the snake proves indestructible, Little Chou swallows it in hopes of being rid of its evil, but that night a mysterious light emanating from his stomach becomes two ku snakes, which he also resolutely eats. The next night there are fifty dancing, luminous snakes, then a hundred, and finally so many that it appears that "the stars had fallen from the sky and emptied into the courtyard." When the greedy master of the original ku snake comes to reclaim his abandoned "pet," Little Chou tricks him into eating it and the man dies horribly. Good and evil receive their just deserts in this cautionary tale, but the snakes are a grotesquely ambiguous symbol, described as lethal yet also beautiful and almost innocently playful (in the end, Little Chou actually misses the creatures he's been at such pains to destroy). Further, the story's logic collapses at a crucial juncture: why, if the rich man was so fearful of the ku snake that he tried to get rid of it, would he wish to reclaim it when it had multiplied a thousandfold? The Tsengs' watercolors range from exotically colorful to murkily mysterious, with the characters' expressions and poses dramatically exaggerated. (Picture book. 6-9) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

THE GHOST FOX by Laurence Yep
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

Familial relationships are exquisitely rendered in this supernatural story drawn from a 17th-century collection by Chinese scholar Pu Sung-ling. After Little Lee accidentally bumps a stranger on a street while carrying cargo to his father Big Lee's ship, Big Lee sails away, promising to return by the New Year. Tension builds as the stranger, a "young gentleman in a red robe," follows Little Lee and his mother to their home. Scratching sounds are heard in the night; the shadow of a fox passes before Little Lee's bedroom window; but as long as the doors stay bolted, the boy and his mother are safe. But one night after the two, exhausted, have forgotten to lock the doors, the ghost fox enters, hungry for souls. The Tsengs' pen-and-ink illustrations evocatively capture 17th-century Chinese dress and architecture, while Yep's narrative depicts the dauntless triumph of good over evil with eerie grace and humor. (Folktale. 7+) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

SATO AND THE ELEPHANTS by Juanita Havill
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1993

Based on a true incident, the story of a Japanese ivory carver who, after devoting a lifetime to his art, gave it up when he found a bullet in the magnificent block of ivory he had hoped to make into his masterpiece. Realizing that his medium depended on the suffering of endangered animals, he became a stone carver. Havill (Jamaica's Find, 1986) embellishes her narrative with an unnecessary dream sequence that may confuse the youngest readers, but it does add drama to the quiet story. As in Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon (1991), the Tsengs' double-page paintings are full of the homely details of an Asian culture—clothing, furnishings, tools; while the African dream sequence allows them to extend their palette and create a phantasmagorical elephant herd. The connection between Africa and Japan is of particular interest. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

WHY DUCKS SLEEP ON ONE LEG by Sherry Garland
ANIMALS
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

A long, somewhat convoluted Vietnamese pourquoi tale that begins, oddly enough, with three ducks with just one leg each. Helping each other hobble along but weary of the teasing of the other creatures, they write a petition to the Jade Emperor (ruler of gods and spirits) and deliver it to the Emperor's deputy spirit in the village dinh (explained in a note as a community center and place of worship). There, they bargain for the extra legs from an incense burner; and since these are gold, they have to tuck them up at night to keep them safe. Garland's narration is lively and clear; the Tsengs (The Seven Chinese Brothers, 1990, ALA Notable) provide vibrant watercolor double spreads in saturated purple and green, red and gold, outlined in broad, boldly telling black. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

KENJI AND THE MAGIC GEESE by Ryerson Johnson
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 12, 1992

Set in rural Japan, an original story resembling a folktale. Kenji's family's only treasure is an ancient painting of five geese in flight. Fastening it to his largest kite, he lets the painted geese fly with the wild ones. Magically, each flight alters the picture—a goose disappears, returning during the next flight; mysterious spots appear and ``hatch'' into goslings that ``grow'' and later disappear. Poverty nearly forces the family to sell their marvel; instead, they find they can exhibit it for a token fee. Like their paintings for Reddix's Dragon Kite of the Autumn Moon (p. 674), the Tsengs' watercolors—here, in a tawny autumnal palette—are full of interesting details of traditional dress, architecture, and domestic implements. A satisfying story that reads well aloud. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

DRAGON KITE OF THE AUTUMN MOON by Valerie Reddix
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 15, 1992

In a tender story of love and sacrifice, loss is overcome by a sense of wonder. Each year, Tad-Tin and his grandfather have made a special kite to release at nightfall on Kite Day (a Taiwanese tradition) to carry away bad fortune. This year, Grandfather is very ill, and no kite has been made. Instead, Tin resolves to fly his only kite—a beautiful silk-and-bamboo dragon his grandfather made when he was born—a spectacular creation with an extravagant mane of streamers, green-glass lantern eyes, and a wire harp mouth that sings in the wind. Though he grieves to think of losing it, Tin hopes that if he can launch the heavy, long body it will carry away Grandfather's illness. As he tearfully releases the beloved kite into the moonlit sky, it becomes a huge dragon that soars by with a soft, kindly laugh before disappearing. Meanwhile, Grandfather has indeed recovered. The Taiwan-born illustrators (Seven Chinese Brothers, 1990) provide serene landscape panoramas, electrifying scenes of the dragon kite coming to life, and sympathetic characterizations. A lovely book—and unusually appealing story. (Picture book. 5-10) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

THE RIVER DRAGON by Darcy Pattison
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 23, 1991

An original tale designed to display the characteristics of Chinese (as opposed to European) dragons. In classic fashion, a young man wins a bride by surviving three challenges set by his prospective father-in-law, who slyly serves him swallows (the dragon's favorite food) at the three prenuptial banquets—with the result that, when Ying Shao crosses the river on the way home, the dragon tries to eat him. Ying Shao is twice able to equip himself with the dragon's special aversions, a centipede and a five-color scarf; the third time, he tricks it by suggesting that the moon's reflection is a magnificent pearl. Illustrated in dramatic watercolors that capture both the subtleties of the human interaction and the dragon's overwhelming presence; a satisfying, well-told debut. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >

BOOK REVIEW

TALES FROM THE BAMBOO GROVE by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 31, 1992

The author of an outstanding account of her family's experiences escaping from Korea to return to Japan at the end of WW II (So Far from the Bamboo Grove, 1986, ALA Notable) recounts six Japanese tales remembered from her childhood. Watkins's introduction gives these brief tales unusual poignancy: she describes how her mother told ``Dragon Princess, Tatsuko'' when Yoko complained about breaking out with measles and explained, when telling ``The Fox Wife,'' that it was ``made up'' by farmers protesting a heavy tax. ``The Grandmother Who Became an Island,'' concerning a family separated in wartime, was the last story her father told before leaving for what turned out to be six years during WW II. Simply and gracefully narrated and handsomely embellished with full page b&w illustrations, an appealing addition to folklore collections. (Folklore. 7-12) Read full book review >