Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful by Nancy Tupper Ling Illustrated by Andrea Offermann

Twins Wei and Mei work together to defend their village against a terrible dragon named Frightful. Wei is brave and impatient while Mei is timid and clever. A fun and exciting read, this modern fairy tale shows how two little girls use teamwork to overcome their obstacles. Wei trains hard at kung fu lessons and Mei studies hard at the library, reading and learning. By combining their strengths, the twins prove that girls can be strong and intelligent.

With influences from Chinese landscape painting, the illustrations lush and detailed, display a sense of authenticity to the land and culture of its subjects. The scenery and people are descriptive without being stereotypical. The art is done in watercolour, pen and ink with digital touch ups.

The book design is quite attractive as well, having two different covers. A dust jacket is always appreciated especially when the inner cover is as fierce as this one! The thick paper selected is also handy and durable as this book will most likely be read many times over. Recommended for ages 5+.

Amazon | Book Depository
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers 2018
Hardcover 40p
7.7" x 11.9"
Yin-Yang Sisters Nancy Tupper Ling Andrea OffermannYin-Yang Sisters Living in fearYin-Yang Sisters Look!Yin-Yang Sisters endingYin-Yang Sisters umbrellaYin-Yang Sisters Mei working on umbrellaYin-Yang Sisters up and downYin-Yang Sisters dumplings

Friday, October 5, 2018

Time for Bed Miyuki by Roxane Marie Galliez and Illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh

As the sun begins to set, it is time for bed. Grandfather gently urges Miyuki to go to sleep but she is too busy doing everything else. A canopy must be made for the dragonfly queen, the vegetables have to be watered and the snails must be lead home. Follow along with Miyuki in this tender bedtime story celebrating family and nature as she attempts to evade sleep.

The illustrations created with watercolour and coloured pencil are a striking mix of textured patterns, bold colours and clean composition. The kimono, bento box, lucky cat (maneki-neko) and other Japanese cultural references and designs are showcased throughout.

The dialogue between grandfather and granddaughter is one of patience and simple enjoyment in each others company. A warm and calming read for little ones at bedtime with pictures that will create wonder leading to dreamland. First published in French as Au lit Miyuki by De La Martinière Groupe, Paris 2017. Recommended for ages 4+.

Amazon | Book Depository
Princeton Architectural Press 2018
Hardcover 26p
8.9" x 11.9"
Time for Bed Miyuki CoverTime for Bed Miyuki Kami TobiTime for Bed Miyuki CanopyTime for Bed Miyuki Last Dance

Friday, September 28, 2018

The House of Lost and Found by Martin Widmark and Illustrated by Emilia Dziubak

Niles, a lonely old man lives quietly in a secluded home. Just like its owner, the house is neglected and full of good memories of happier times. Unable to move on from his wife's passing, his thoughts of her linger in the house. He remembers his children who have now grown and left him. The thoughts of what used to be and what he has lost have made him bitter and longing for the past.

The mood is solemn and dark but not eerie. The memories while haunting are beautiful; he cannot let go. Niles lives a solitary existence until he meets a new friend and it changes his outlook on life. With a willingness to move forward, Niles is rejuvenated to reclaim his life and his home to make new memories.

This uplifting and meaningful story is by bestselling Swedish children's author Martin Widmark. The text is simple and the pacing just right, Niles' transformation from depressed to hopeful is unembellished and leaves room for thought. Emilia Dziubak uses coloured pencils for the illustrations here with an emphasis on light and dark. Rough strokes resemble old films. The memories are drawn like apparitions and the detailing of the flower petals as lingering memories is very touching and effective. This would make a great animated short film.

A book with similar themes to this is On the Other Side of the GardenEncouraging and hopeful, The House of Lost and Found is an excellent resource for children to understand and empathize with individuals dealing with grief. Originally published in Swedish as Huset som vaknade by Bonnier Carlsen Bokförlag 2017. Recommended for ages 5+.

Amazon | Book Depository
Floris Books 2018
Hardcover 40p
9" x 11.2"

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Mid-Autumn Festival and the Legend of the Moon Goddess

Chang'e Moon Festival The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival celebrates and gives thanks for the fall harvest. It is also a time of family reunion and moon worshiping. Held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. This tradition is widely followed in East Asia and originates from Chinese mythology.

The Jade Emperor (also Celestial Emperor) who ruled the universe had ten sons. Each day, the Sun Princes would take turns brightening the sky and warming the earth. All was well until one day the eldest Sun Prince thought it would be fun to have all of the Sun brothers shine at once. And so all ten suns appeared at once in the sky and the heat became unbearable for the earth. The seas dried up, there was no water for farming and animals died of thirst. Terrified by the catastrophe, the people implored the Jade Emperor for help.

Upon learning of his sons' thoughtless actions, the Jade Emperor commanded Hou Yi (also Shen Yi) to punish them. Hou Yi, the Celestial Archer whose arrow is the most powerful in the universe, shot nine Sun Princes down. When he was about to shoot the last one, he was stopped by the Jade Emperor who merely wanted to scare his sons, not kill them. Full of rage, the Jade Emperor banished Hou Yi and his wife Chang'e (also Heng'e) from the heavens to live on earth as mortals.

The arrival of Hou Yi and Chang'e brought joy to the people on earth for they were so grateful to this saviour and crowned him their emperor. Hou Yi ruled with generosity and kindness at first but as the years passed, he became greedy and arrogant. He longed to return to the heavens among the other deities and thought of himself to be above mankind.

In his search for immortality, Hou Yi was instructed by a hermit to visit the ancient goddess Xiwangmu (also Queen Mother of the West) who lived at the top of Mount Kunlun. Xiwangmu knew of Hou Yi's past life and his divine powers. She felt he did not deserve to share the fate of all mortals and granted him the elixir of immortality.

Mooncakes Mid-Autumn Festival treatsWhen Hou Yi returned home and presented Chang'e with the elixir of immortality, she was horrified. She did not want this cruel and selfish man to live forever and bring continued suffering to the people. That night after celebrating his successful return, Hou Yi fell asleep; drunk with wine. Chang'e grasped her opportunity to rid of the elixir. She did not know how else to do it but drink it all. As soon as she finished the last drop of the elixir, she began to feel lighter and lighter. She floated up weightlessly into the sky and all the way up to the moon. There she remained and became the Goddess of the Moon.

There are many variations to the names of the characters and story arcs. Other stories about Chang'e include a rabbit, her companion on the moon and the elixir is sometimes written as a pill. Chang'e also appeared in Wu Cheng'en's novel Journey to the West. During the Moon Festival, sweet baked goods are usually gifted, especially mooncakes. Traditional mooncakes have lotus seed paste filling with a salted duck egg yolk in the center that when cut resembles a moon. These cakes usually come in tin boxes with the images of Chang'e decorating the exterior.