Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon
by Judy Young, illustrated by Jordi Solano
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018
Hu Wan, a poor Chinese peasant boy, lives with his grandfather who is old and becomes very close to dying. When the Chinese Emperor dies and his young son becomes the new Emperor, gifts are requested to cheer him up. Hu Wan knows how sad he was when his grandfather almost died and takes his first gourd he has shaped into a cricket cage to the new Emperor as a gift. He humbly sets it on a table with very expensive gifts others had brought. He is most surprised when a guard shows up and learns the new Emperor enjoyed the cricket’s song and requests more gourd cricket cages, for which he will be paid generously.
A wonderful, heart-felt story showing how being yourself and doing what you do best is rewarded.
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Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award
Inspired by a true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, the book clearly encourages children to follow their hearts and dreams.
A young girl who loves drumbeats listens to them in fascination. She listens to the conga drums, the bongo drums and the timbales and imagines herself playing them. But on her island, only boys can play drums. She kept her drum-beating dreams to herself, beating and dancing beats when she could, at home, in the parks, or in her dreams. One day her older sisters invite her to join their all-girl band and she is elated! Only her traditional father says only boys should play the drums. So she continues to drum alone. But then one day her father offers “to find a music teacher who could decide if her drums deserved to be heard.” The teacher was amazed at her abilities and the girl practiced and practiced. One day he suggests she play in public, and soon the traditional ways fell aside.
The bright, contrasting colors depict the many moods the drums elicit and bring the drumbeats and rhythms into the reader’s heart.
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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
Lee & Low, 2009
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is one of those rich tales, which pulls in the reader and keeps the pages turning. Through her tale of a young girl free of real-life cultural limitations, author Grace Lin weaves together the quietness of the Chinese culture with some boldness of the American culture. The story works on many levels, with all the main characters growing from the experience. I read the book twice and learned just as much the second time.
Though her hard-working family is poor, Minli is happy and enjoys her life. Her dad tells her stories each evening to entertain her daughter. But her mother keeps complaining about how little they have. One day spirited Minli sets off to find the Old Man of the Moon who will tell her how she can change their fortune. She soon meets up with a dragon and they travel together. They meet several ‘impossible’ challenges along the way, but each time they keep their heart open and find a way around or through the obstacle.
Ms. Lin sprinkles in numerous mini ‘tales’ to give background and, often, clues about each challenge Minli faces. Not seen often in children’s books, she inserts how Minli’s disappearance impacts her parents, gently capturing what they are learning and how it supports what Minli is learning.
Brilliantly written. An engaging story.
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