Little Chu wants to defend his family and protect the village from bandits. He apprentices with Master Li, the greatest teacher of the sword in all of China -- and finds that having the skill means he'll never have to use it.
When the Emperor sees Mu Chi's magnificent mural, he decrees that the painter's reward shall be death. After all, no one but the Emperor should own such a perfect painting. Wielding the power of art, Mu Chi is able to find a way out of his dilemma.
These two stories about masters of their arts are retold and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Alice Provensen, a master artist in her own right. Readers and listeners will be enchanted by the humor and irrepressible spirit with which these characters take on obstacles and triumph over them.
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Alice Provensen is a preeminent American illustrator. With her late husband, Martin, she received the Caldecott Medal for The Glorious Flight and a Caldecott Honor for Nancy Willard's Newbery Medal-winning A Visit to William Blake's Inn. The Provensens have appeared on the New York Times list of the Ten Best Illustrated Books eight times -- the second most of any book illustrator. Alice Provensen lives on Maple Hill Farm in New York State.From School Library Journal:
K-Gr 3-A distinguished illustrator uses the China she imagines as a setting for two philosophical fantasies. Though the stories are described as "legends from ancient China- retold," the CIP information is more accurate, categorizing the book as fiction rather than folklore. In the first story, a small boy from a village beset by bandits travels far to apprentice himself to a master swordsman. After two years of dodging talking objects like jugs and teapots, Little Chu learns to be attentive and alert, to anticipate danger. Master Li then presents him with his great sword and tells him to use it to chop cabbage. The bandits are so daunted by his skillful chopping of vegetables that they leave the village in peace. The second story concerns the conflict between a great painter and a greedy, cruel emperor. Commissioned to fill a huge, blank wall, the artist spends years painting a mural, knowing that the jealous emperor will kill him when he is finished. His solution to the problem, while echoing many Chinese stories about a picture coming to life, is not a traditional one. Although Provensen tells a good story in crisp, dramatic sentences, her stock characters engage in overly formal dialogue and have been placed in whimsical situations that exist only in the Western imagination. Her art pays respectful homage to Chinese narrative hand scrolls, and her sense of composition, color, and narrative flow are products of her distinguished career. Nonetheless, Emily Arnold McCully's Beautiful Warrior (Scholastic, 1998) and Molly Bang's Tye May and the Magic Brush (Morrow, 1992) are more authentic and accurate depictions of China.
Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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